Mr Justice Peter Smith (PS): Right, Mr Turner, here is a question for you. What happened to the luggage?
Jon Turner (JT): My Lord, the position remains that set out in the letter from Slaughter and May of 15 July, that we are not dealing with that as parties in these proceedings.
PS: I am asking you: what has happened to the luggage?
JT: My Lord, so far as the parties to these proceedings, including Slaughter and May as the representative of British Airways for these proceedings, are concerned, we have said, and we maintain, that we are not getting involved because we trust that that will be dealt with expeditiously, in the ordinary course of events
PS: In that case, do you want me to order your chief executive to appear before me today?
JT: I do not wish your Lordship to do that; and I would say, if your Lordship will permit me to develop my submissions, that that would be an inappropriate mixture of a personal dispute —
PS: What is inappropriate is the continued failure of your clients to explain a simple question, namely, what happened to the luggage? It has been two weeks since that happened now. Or are you saying that if I had a piece of luggage that was just lost, that would lead me to recuse myself from the case?
JT: I am not saying that, my Lord. If I may, I will develop the submissions on this because —
PS: No, I want an answer to my question. If you are not going to —
JT: In that case, let me answer both of those questions. I am not saying that a mere dispute over mislaid luggage of your Lordship’s would itself, in itself, be grounds for recusal. Our position, as set out in the submissions that we have made and the letters, is that this dispute extends beyond a mere dispute about mislaid luggage.
Secondly, in relation to the overlap between the personal dispute and the litigation before your Lordship, we say that no linkage should be made, because that contributes to the impression of bias.
PS: If the dispute over the luggage had gone to litigation, you are not saying I shouldn’t have told the parties in this litigation of that dispute, are you? I just find that an impossible submission. I just wonder what thunderbolts would have come in my direction if your solicitors had found out that I was in a dispute with BA and not told them, and BA didn’t know of my connection with this litigation and I commenced proceedings against BA, and then I suddenly tell your lawyers that: oh, by the way, I am suing your clients. Are you seriously suggesting there isn’t a necessary linkage that has got to be ventilated?
JT: Our position, my Lord, is that where your Lordship initiates a personal dispute with British Airways –
PS: I didn’t initiate a personal dispute. BA’s associated company retained my luggage. It is not my fault that that happened. I am the victim. I read the whole of your correspondence. The more I read it, I got the impression that BA was trying to portray itself of the victim of this case and being oppressed by wicked Mr Justice Peter Smith. It is just ridiculous.
The reason I called you and Mr Harris and your lawyers in was that I wanted to head off a situation whereby it would escalate out of control and lead to the present application.
JT: My Lord, I do understand that and this is not a criticism of your Lordship’s motivations in any way.
PS: As far as I am concerned, the key fact in this case is: what happened to the luggage; and your clients know what happened to the luggage and they are not telling me. And your solicitors and you are deliberately not asking. Your reasons might be as you say, but what is being withheld from me is what is the key point in this issue, by the people who seek to recuse me from the case
PS: Now, I am entitled, therefore, to know, because if there is — and I have always made this position clear; if there is a perfectly understandable operational reason as to why the whole of the flights’ luggage was left behind in Florence — note, the whole of the flight, not just mine, the whole of the flights’ luggage was left behind — if it was for perfectly reasonable operational reasons, then I will accept that. That has been my stance ever since I contacted the chairman.
I contacted the chairman because the BA helpline is misdescribed. Because when I contacted them, they said, “It is nothing to do with us, it is down to Vueling”, despite the fact that I booked my flight with BA and BA took my money. That appears to be irrelevant.
The Vueling helpline was even worse, because although we were all given a personalised lost luggage number, it never got onto their system. So when you are on the Vueling airline helpline, they said, “Come back to us when your luggage goes on our computer system”. They couldn’t even tell me where the luggage was till it, without warning, spontaneously arrived at my house last Thursday
In those circumstances, I went to the BA website and the BA website says the chairman is anxious to have comments from customers, and there is his email address, so I sent him an email.
That is reinforced by an article which I referred to in the correspondence. Apparently he likes reading customers’ emails. It doesn’t appear to be necessarily he does anything about it, but he obviously likes reading them over his breakfast.
So your clients must know now, nearly two weeks after the event, what happened to the luggage.
PS: BA as a group, as a company in a group, clearly know what happened to the luggage, because, as I said in my original email, they cannot have accidentally left the whole of the flight’s luggage off the plane, can they? I mean, I am intrigued. It might be for some reason they only had 3 gallons of fuel in the plane, it would run out unless they took everything off, which is a bit difficult because the plane was actually being refueled when we got there. But equally, it is impossible to believe that the pilot, who has to sign the documentation as to what is the weight and composition of the weight in the plane, did not know that his hold was empty; and it is equally impossible for the ground staff not to know that the luggage was not there
These are things which, I accept, I am struggling to find a rational explanation for. But then I don’t operate airlines. I don’t know what goes on. But I do know this, Mr Turner: it is clearly within the knowledge of your client to explain.
JT: My Lord, you know, of course, that this was not a BA aeroplane. This was another operator.
PS: In the same group.
JT: This is a Spanish low cost operator.
PS: That itself is an interesting story, because I bought my ticket with BA and I was given a BA flight number, until the day before I signed in, when it suddenly got changed to a Vueling number.
I didn’t contract with Vueling. I contracted with BA. I signed up with BA. BA took my money. BA had the responsibility for my luggage. In fact, BA had the responsibility for me being able to get onto the flight. Your code sharing now explains to me why the plane was possibly overloaded or underloaded, because the people might have code shared more than there are. But my contract was with BA and, frankly, for BA to tell me, their “customer helpline”, was that it was nothing to do with them was, shall I say, economic with the actualité.