Hong Kong, 4 July 2017: Hong Kong is lagging behind other jurisdictions in protecting airline passengers who are bumped off flights, says Boase Cohen & Collins Senior Partner Colin Cohen.

Travellers are placed at a “real disadvantage” and are left to fend for themselves if they turn up at the airport with a valid booking but are told they cannot board, he told listeners to RTHK Radio 3’s Backchat programme this morning.

“Here in Hong Kong there is very little protection for passengers,” he said. “The terms and conditions on your flight ticket leave everything in the airline’s hands, simply saying that the carrier will undertake best efforts to carry the passenger with reasonable dispatch.

“We have little or no recourse compared to passengers in the European Union, where there are regulations that set out various compensations and avenues of assistance if you have been bumped off a flight and have behaved properly and not caused any problems.

“In the United States they offer passengers money if they voluntarily give up their seat although, of course, we have seen that things can sometimes get out of hand.”

Mr Cohen told Backchat presenters Danny Gittings and Ada Wong that being bumped off a flight in Hong Kong was comparatively rare. “In my experience, when it does happen, airlines do their best to alleviate the problem and find the ideal solution. However, at the end of the day, the passenger is at a real disadvantage.”

He said the International Air Transport Association and Hong Kong’s Airport Authority should adopt regulations similar to the European Union and ensure these were enforceable.

The issue of overbooked flights became a hot topic three months ago after a video of a passenger being dragged off a United Airlines flight in the US went viral. The airline later apologised and reached an out-of-court settlement with the passenger.

Asked what advice he would offer any passenger bumped off a flight in Hong Kong, Mr Cohen said: “Be polite but also be difficult, stand your ground and insist that the airline sort it out. You have to be strong and resilient in order to get the airline to make you the best possible offer.”