How Does This Outcome Help Passengers?
This ruling means that passengers who are denied boarding, delayed more than 3 hours or have a cancelled flight on non-EU connecting flights are now eligible for compensation if the cause is not extraordinary circumstances.
For example, if you are flying from London to Sydney, with a stopover in Dubai, and your latter flight is delayed or you cannot board the aircraft, you are still covered by the regulation.
This decision is the latest pro-consumer case to come from the European Court of Justice and enhance the rights of passengers. 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.
What Was Claudia Wegener’s Experience?
Claudia Wegener was due to fly with Royal Air Maroc SA from Berlin to Agadir, Morocco, via Casablanca, Morocco. She checked in for the entirety of her journey at Berlin Airport, but found herself delayed at her interim destination.
Subsequently, Claudia landed four hours later than the scheduled arrival time. According to EU261/2004, the required time a flight must be delayed by in order to be claimable is three hours or more. Passengers delayed for longer than this, depending on the distance travelled and time may be entitled to 250, 300, 400 or 600 euros.
What Was Royal Air Maroc’s Defense?
Upon receiving Claudia’s request for compensation, Royal Air Maroc SA rebuffed it by stating that she was not entitled to claim for the delay on the grounds that Morocco is outside of the EU, and the change in aircraft for the connecting flight signalled a separate journey.
In the airline’s justification, they quoted Article 3 (1), entitled “Scope” of the highly successful EU261/2004 regulation, which defines that in order for compensation requests to be successful, passengers departing from an airport located in a third country should be travelling to an airport “situated in the territory of a Member State to which the treaty applies”.
Following this matter, the Regional Court in Berlin decided to halt the proceedings and refer this instance to the Court for a preliminary ruling.
Victory for Airline Passengers at the ECJ
In a positive step forward for passengers like Claudia, the new milestone judgment handed down from the ECJ notes that a change of aircraft has no impact whatsoever on passengers’ right to claim, and therefore circumstances like Claudia’s fall well within the scope of Article 3 (1) (a) of EU261/2004.
Passengers in similar situations to Claudia will be awarded compensation for the irreversible loss of time, and the matter of delayed connecting flights has been clarified in a triumph for consumer rights at the highest court in Europe.
The decision is legally binding throughout Europe, and sets a new precedent.
Coby Benson, Flight Delay Compensation Solicitor at Bott and Co said: “This decision is the latest pro-consumer case to come from the European Court of Justice and enhance the rights of passengers.
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.”