NOVE’s partner Urmas Volens represented one of the largest tour operators of Estonia, OÜ Novatours in the Supreme Court. The dispute was based on three travellers’ action against the tour operator, in which they demanded compensation from the tour operator for the event that the tour operator discontinued their vacations prematurely due to riots that started in Egypt in spring, 2014, and brought the passengers back to Estonia for their own safety.
The Supreme Court found in its ruling in the civil proceeding no. 3-2-1-75-16 that Novatours had the right to interrupt the tour and it was done on a legal basis. According to the Court, an increased threat of terrorist attacks in resorts can be considered as a circumstance of force majeure, which is why the provision of travel service may be dangerous and thus, difficult. In the present case, the same is confirmed by the warning of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the failure to comply with such a warning on behalf of the tour operator would have been an act of negligence by the tour operator. The Court did not find that the warning was given unreasonably or too easily. The Court decided that ignoring this recommendation in such a situation would have been an irresponsible act on behalf of the tour operator. The court also found that the safest way to protect the health and lives of the passengers after the increase of threat level was to return them immediately from Egypt and that is what Novatours did.
Additionally, the Supreme Court found that Novatours did not infringe its obligation to inform the passengers of these trip-related risks neither before the conclusion of the contract nor after it. The Court justified it with the fact that the situation in Egypt was well-known through media, which is why all passengers had enough information in order to make a calculated decision both in concluding the contract as well as in going on the trip, and Novatours did not have any additional information that had to be transmitted. The Court decided that the passengers have not made it credible that if Novatours would have informed them about the situation in addition to the information published in media channels, they would have decided to not conclude the contracts or not go on the trip.
Thirdly, the Supreme Court found that in a situation where a package tour must be discontinued in order to maintain the passengers’ safety, additional costs for returning the passengers must be divided between the passengers and the tour operator so that both parties bear the risk of such costs equally. According to the court, the passengers’ understanding that they don’t have to pay for the return trip was unreasonable and not-complying with the risk-sharing resulting from the nature of force majeure. If the return trip costs per passenger are bigger than his planned return trip costs, the tour operator is allowed to demand the passenger the compensation of half of the additional costs exceeding the planned return trip costs.