European Court rules in airlines’ favour on delay compensation

A shortage of airport baggage handlers may be an “exceptional circumstance” limiting passengers’ entitlement to compensation for a flight delay, according to a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The ruling this month in a case brought under EU Regulation 261 on air passengers’ rights came after a German regional court referred a claim by claims-handler Flightright on behalf of passengers on a flight from Cologne to Kos which was delayed by more than three hours.

Under Regulation 261, which applies in the UK, an airline must compensate passengers for delays of more than three hours unless the delay was due to “exceptional circumstances” which could not have been avoided “even by taking all reasonable measures”.

The flight operated by Tourist Aviation Services (TAS) was delayed by three hours 49 minutes due to a combination of factors – a preceding flight delay of one hour 17 minutes owing to a check-in staff shortage, a two-hour-13-minute delay due to the baggage-handler shortage and a weather delay of 19 minutes.

Flightright won its claim in a local court, but TAS appealed on the grounds that the airport operator employed the baggage staff, making that part of the delay due to an ‘exceptional circumstance’ over which the carrier had no control. The higher, German regional court sought an ECJ ruling.

The ECJ affirmed it was for the national court to rule on the facts of the case. But it noted that for a delay to be due to ‘exceptional circumstances’: “The event in question must be beyond the actual control of the operating carrier . . . [arising] from a natural event or an act of a third party.

“In this case, the loading of baggage was slowed down on account of the shortage of staff assigned by the operator of Cologne Bonn airport.”

It ruled: “The fact of there being an insufficient number of staff of the airport operator responsible for the operations of loading baggage . . . may constitute an ‘extraordinary circumstance’.”

However, the ECJ added: “The air carrier is required to show the circumstances could not have been avoided.”

The ruling was the third by the ECJ in favour of airlines and against passenger refund and compensation claims brought by claims companies so far this year.

Go to Source...