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Passengers whose flights are delayed may be entitled to compensation

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By Leo Gasteen

Air travellers in Europe faced with a delay of three hours or more are entitled to compensation, following a judgement by the European Court of Justice. The judgement clarifies the rights available to airline passengers who have undergone delay. It was ruled that a delay totalling three hours or more would entitle the passenger to compensation.

Current regulation states that passengers are entitled to a flat rate compensation between €250 and €600. However, this regulation does not expressly provide that passengers who are subject to delay can also enjoy the same rights. 

The need for clarification, motioned by the German and Austrian courts, stems from the cases in which two sets of passengers have claimed compensation from Condor and Airfrance.  Their claim for compensation is provided for by the regulation in the case of flight cancellation, on the ground that  they reached their airports of destination 25 and 22 hours after the scheduled arrival time. 

The court stated that a flight cannot be regarded as cancelled merely on the ground of the duration of delay. If, however, the airline, after the scheduled departure time, arranges for the passengers to be transported on a different flight (that is, a flight which was planned independently of the flight for which the passengers had made their bookings), the flight may, as a rule, be regarded as cancelled.  Unless the airline can prove that a hindrance was due to extraordinary, and uncontrollable circumstances, the delay will give rise to a right to compensation.

The court concluded that passengers who are affected by delay sustain similar damage to those passengers who are affected by cancellation, consisting in a loss of time and thus are in a comparable situation. As such a three hour time period will now act as the fine line between delay without compensation, and a delay that entitles compensation.


European Court of Justice - Justice and Application -Full texts



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