Passengers forfeit compensation if not present for delayed flights

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled air passengers who fail to present at the airport for a delayed flight are not entitled to compensation under EU Regulation 261 on air passenger rights.

The ECJ ruling in January came in a case referred by the German Federal Court of Justice between Ryanair subsidiary Laudamotion and claims-handler Flightright.

It involved two passengers who failed to present for boarding after being informed a flight between Dusseldorf and Palma de Mallorca would be delayed by more than three hours.

One passenger passed a claim to Flightright for the €250 compensation due under Regulation 261 for such a delay, the other booked an alternative flight and also brought a claim against the carrier.

Both claims were dismissed by a lower German court, but Flightright won on appeal, leading Laudamotion to appeal to the Federal Court. It sought an ECJ ruling on whether a passenger is entitled to compensation without presenting for check-in.

Flightright argued the passengers should be treated as though their flights had been cancelled. But the ECJ noted that in providing compensation for delays, Regulation 261 requires “passengers present themselves for check-in in good time, except in the case of cancellation” and do so “to a representative of the air carrier . . . even if they have already checked in online”.

It ruled: “Passengers whose flight is delayed cannot be exempted from the obligation to present themselves or check-in.” The court noted neither passenger had “suffered a loss of time conferring entitlement to fixed compensation”.

Flightright operates across Europe, including in the UK, and Regulation 261 applies in the UK under the Civil Aviation (Denied Boarding, Compensation and Assistance) Regulations of 2005.

The UK government has proposed amending the regulation but has no plans to do so in the current Parliament and any changes would apply only to domestic flights as the EC regulation continues to apply to all flights to and from the EU.

However, it’s not clear a UK court would follow an ECJ ruling made since Britain exited the EU in 2020.

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