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This question was prompted by mts' recent question What happens to plane tickets in case of airline bankruptcy?

Many airlines today are part of a global alliance of airlines and/or have interlining agreements with other airlines. As such, it's frequently possible to purchase a ticket for a flight that is operated by one airline, but ticketed by one of their partner airlines.

In a situation like in mts' question where an airline is obviously in financial trouble before you purchase the ticket, I'm wondering whether purchasing a ticket that is ticketed by a partner airline is a potential method of shielding oneself from the possibility of the flight's operating carrier ceasing operations due to bankruptcy. Obviously, this would be assuming that you would buy the ticket from a partner airline that is, in your judgment, less likely to cease operations before your flight.

So, specifically, my question is what happens when you hold a ticket for a flight where the operating carrier has ceased operations due to bankruptcy, but the ticketing carrier is still in operation?

Especially of interest is whether the ticketing carrier is then liable under the contract of carriage to get you to your destination, as they typically would be in the case of other irregular operations.


I'm aware that, in some countries (and, with certain cards in other countries,) purchasing a ticket through a credit card gives you recourse to get your money back, but I'm wondering if this could potentially be an alternative solution. If the ticketing airline indeed remains responsible for rerouting you, this seems like it could be a better solution than filing for a refund with your credit card, as you're not out the difference between your original ticket cost and a same-day ticket on another airline (which is typically very expensive.)

  • "Especially of interest is whether the ticketing carrier is then liable under the contract of carriage to get you to your destination" That would be easy to find out, would it not? – fkraiem Jul 10 '16 at 4:02
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    @fkraiem It will be even easier if someone answers the question and it's indexed by Google. :) – reirab Jul 10 '16 at 4:04
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Your contract is between you and the ticketing carrier (see first three digits of e-ticket). If you paid with a credit card, on your statement, you will see this airline as the recipient of the funds for your flights. Subsequently, the ticketing airline will consult the various agreements with the other airlines to distribute any fees due.

If the operating carrier has schedule changes, you will be rebooked on other carriers potentially including the ticketing carrier's flights or its other airline partners. Similarly, if the operating carrier goes bankrupt your ticketing carrier is still obligated to arrange alternative transport for you.

Since the operating carrier has various responsibilities such as providing EU261/2004 compensation where applicable, this is not something you would likely be able attempt to claim from your ticketing carrier should flights be cancelled due to bankruptcy.

There's a great article on FT explaining the various parties involved in your ticket. I'll just extract one small part:

There are four (!) different basic ways that an airline can be involved in a ticket:

  • As ticketing carrier (sometimes called "validating" or "plating" carrier). In the end, a ticket must be issued by a single airline, on that airline's virtual (or physical paper) ticket "stock". This airline gets the money and distributes it to the other airlines on the ticket.
  • As fare owning carrier. This is the airline whose fare is used and who sets the price for the flights the fare covers.
  • As marketing carrier of a flight. This is the airline whose flight number is used; they're the ones offering the flight for sale.
  • As operating carrier of a flight, the ones who own and operate the plane and supply the crew.
  • The operating carrier might lease, rather than own, the plane. – RedGrittyBrick Jul 12 '16 at 15:57
  • @RedGrittyBrick Ok. And can you think of a different consequence in that case? – Berwyn Jul 12 '16 at 15:59
  • The consequence for your answer is that the FT article is less "great" than it would be if it contained fewer errors. The consequences for the passenger might arise in the case of an unresolved disagreement between lessor and lessee - perhaps the former might cause the aircraft to be impounded in the event of a contract violation by the latter. This consequence is unlikely when the owner and operator are the same. – RedGrittyBrick Jul 12 '16 at 16:05
  • @RedGrittyBrick The FT article is just to explain the various differences between ticketing and operating carriers etc. I don't really see why it makes a difference if an airline goes bankrupt if it has leased aircraft as well as or instead of owning them. The lessor is hardly likely to honour the tickets – Berwyn Jul 12 '16 at 16:08
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It is the responsibility of the airline issuing the Ticket to reaccommodate you.

For an alliance carrier, this really isn't a problem and certainly nothing I would worry about.

To issuing carrier, this isn't any different than a schedule change or the operating carrier ceasing just that one flight. This happens all the time. It's common for an itinerary issued >3 months in advance to have some change.

Actually, the ticketing carrier is only obligated to get you to your destination, not at a specific time and not on specific flights.

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