The Malta Independent 5 December 2023, Tuesday
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Standards czar says complaint against Chris Bonett over airline seats incident was unfounded

Tuesday, 21 November 2023, 13:06 Last update: about 14 days ago

The Standards Commissioner has declared that allegations that passengers on an Air Malta flight were moved to new seating to make way for the family of Parliamentary Secretary Chris Bonett were unfounded.

In January 2023, Independent candidate Arnold Cassola said  that on 7 December a number of passengers had paid extra to choose their seats on an Air Malta flight to Gatwick, KM 116. He said that as they were embarking, Air Malta check-in staff informed these passengers that they had to forfeit their seats to make way for Bonett and his family who were on their way to a holiday in London. Cassola said that a commotion ensued until the passengers involved were forced to vacate their pre-booked seats, with the result that the flight left 30 minutes late.


Bonett had denied the allegations and said that he had paid beforehand, as others do, to have his family seated near each other. He said he had not asked for any preferential treatment, and has receipts for what he paid for.

The Standards Commissioner's reports reads that Bonnet said that, despite having pre-booked the seats next to each other, when he arrived at the airport they were given boarding passes with different seats, and that he asked for seats next to each other, as he had pre-booked. He said that he and his family were given new boarding passes with seats next to each other. He said that he and his family were the first to board the plane and sat on the seats identified in the new boarding passes. Two passengers who later boarded complained that they were in their seats, the report reads.

The report quotes the Parliamentary Secretary as saying: "I was the onewho offered to change my seat with someone else so that the commotion raised by these passengers would stop. In fact, that is what I did and I ended up going to sit in a seat away from my wife and children. At no point did I ask for or exercised some form of pressure for I or my family to be given preferential treatment to the detriment of other passengers. I only asked to be given what I had pre-booked." The Standards Commissioner said that the Parliamentary Secretary exhibited a screenshot as evidence of the pre-booking.

The Standards Commissioner sought some information from Air Malta. The CEO of Air Malta said that in the original pre-booking, Bonett had not chosen seats next to each other but on 4 December, three days prior to the flight through the 'Manage my booking' facility on the airline's website, Bonett chose four seats next to each other. The CEO said that due to a technical glitch in the online booking system, the seats chosen by Bonett on 4 December were not recognised in the physical bookinh, an issue that was fixed in January.

The CEO said that Bonett had not done an online check-in, and when arriving at the airport in Malta checked in. four seats not near each other were given and Bonett reapproached the desk asking for four seats on the same row, which were granted since they were travelling with two children, with the passengers in those seats being moved. This transfer became known to the passengers only when they boarded, the report read.

Bonett told the Standards Commissioner that at no point did Air Malta inform him that the pre-booking days before the flight was not recognised, nor that the seats on the plane were all taken up and that other passengers had to be moved to observe his pre-booking.

The Standards Commissioner said that Bonett's version coincides with that by the airline's CEO. "The fact that Bonett insisted that he be given seats next to each other for him and his family does not amount to pressure to acquire favourable treatment as he had pre-booked these seats. It was a defect in the system of the company that resulted in the disagreement that followed."

The Standards Commissioner said that the complaint against the Parliamentary Secretary is unfounded, and closed the case.

In a statement, Cassola said the Commissioner for Standards confirms that Bonnet did not reserve seats on the Air Malta flight when he bought his tickets in September. He only did so a few days before departure in December.

The Air Malta system did not accept his late booking of reserved seats, Cassola said.

"The blame has therefore been shifted onto the stupid Air Malta computer system, that did not accept Chris Bonnet's very late order, even though he is an MP, " Cassola said.




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