European Judges have today ruled in passengers’ favour at the highest court in the European Union, the Court of Justice, in a case worth tens of millions of pounds in compensation a year to passengers.
Judges handed down the verdict in Luxembourg at 9am GMT for the German case of Helga Krüsemann and Others v TUIfly GmbH.
In September 2016, as a result of a company restructure announcement, TUIfly flight staff placed themselves on sick leave for one full week.
Between 1st and 10th October 2016, TUIfly absence on the grounds of sickness rose from 10% to 89% for cockpit crew and up to 62% for cabin crew.
This ‘wildcat strike’ caused flight interruptions, with many TUIfly flights being cancelled or delayed for more than three hours.
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.
This case was taken to local German courts of Hanover and Düsseldorf who then asked the Court of Justice to determine whether, for the purposes of Regulation 261/2004, the spontaneous absence of a significant part of the flight staff in the form of a ‘wildcat strike’, such as that in question, falls within the concept of ‘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’.
In July 2017, British Airways cabin crew held a 16-day strike, which was then extended for a further two weeks into August 2017. The strike affected over 60,000 passengers leaving from and arriving at London Heathrow Airport. Bott and Co have estimated that this strike alone is worth £25m in compensation to passengers.
Today’s ruling that sudden strikes by airline staff should not be classed as extraordinary circumstances will be legally binding throughout Europe and will hold precedent in UK cases.
This ruling shows that the courts believe it remains the airline’s responsibility to ensure they have contingencies in place to guarantee their passengers still arrive on time.
Coby Benson, Solicitor at Bott and Co, the leading flight delay compensation law firm in the UK, said: “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.”