Flight delay: Airline passengers can now claim for delayed non-EU connecting flights
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on flight delay compensation means that passengers who are denied boarding, delayed more than three hours or have a cancelled flight on non-EU connecting flights are now eligible for payouts if the cause is not extraordinary circumstances.
The new judgement by the ECJ will also allow for retrospective claims for flights up to six years ago from England and Wales.
The move came after a German passenger who was delayed on a connecting flight in Morocco was awarded a €400 (£350) payout.
Claudia Wegener was due to fly with Royal Air Maroc SA from Berlin to Agadir, via Casablanca.
But a delay at connecting airport Casablanca resulted in Wegener landing four hours later than the scheduled arrival time.
This ECJ judgment will ensure that passengers on connecting flights outside the EU will now have the same high level of protection as passengers who chose to fly directly to their destination
European air passenger’s rights rules mean a passenger delayed for more than three hours is entitled to a sum between €250-€600 (£219-£527).
However, the airline rejected Wegener’s claim, stating that she was not entitled to claim for the delay as Morocco is outside of the EU and the change in aircraft for the connecting flight signalled a separate journey.
After she appealed to the regional court in Berlin she was was referred to the European Court of Justice where the judges ruled that a change of aircraft has no impact on passengers’ right to claim.
The decision is legally binding throughout Europe and sets a new precedent.
From now on passengers in a similar situation to Wegener who are delayed on connecting flights outside the EU, will be awarded compensation for the irreversible loss of time – a decision clarified at the highest court in Europe.
Flight delay: The move came after a German passenger who was delayed on a connecting flight
“This decision is the latest pro-consumer case to come from the European Court of Justice and enhance the rights of passengers,” said Coby Benson, Flight Delay Solicitor at Bott and Co.
“This judgment will ensure that passengers on connecting flights will now have the same high level of protection as passengers who chose to fly directly to their destination.”
For Britons travelling abroad, the ruling is likely to be most relevant for flights via Gulf hubs such as Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai, and connections in North America.
Airlines are unhappy with the decision and feel the rules are unfairly biased towards travellers.
This is the second time in recent months that the ECJ has ruled in favour of passengers.
Flight delay: The ECJ decision is legally binding throughout Europe, and sets a new precedent
In April the European Court of Justice ruled that flight delays and cancellation caused by sudden strikes by flight staff are claimable under EU regulation.
“Wildcat strikes” – such as the British Airways cabin crew four-week strike in July 2017 which affected over 60,000 passengers – are to no longer be classed as “extraordinary circumstances.”
This victory for passengers opens the door for millions of pounds in compensation each year to be paid to UK passengers alone, many of whose compensation claims have been previously denied by airlines on the grounds of “extraordinary circumstances.”
Benson said of the ruling, “Airlines have argued for a long time that staff strikes are an extraordinary circumstance.
“This judgment from the European Court is the latest in a long line of cases that confirms airlines are often obliged to provide monetary compensation of up to £530 to passengers who find their travel plans severely disrupted at the last minute.”