17th Nov 2012 | Articles

Richard Campbell looks at “Regulation 261/2004 is Now Boarding: Planes, Delays and Compensation” in this following article.


Having been at the mercy of hurricanes and ash clouds, it would seem that the woes of European airlines are set to continue as a result of the recent judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Joined Cases C-581/10 Nelson and Others v Deutsche Lufthansa and C-629/10 TUI Travel and Others v Civil Aviation Authority.

The Court has ruled that where passengers reach their final destination three hours or more after thescheduled arrival time, they may claim fixed compensation from the airline, unless the delay is caused by extraordinary circumstances. The ruling provides an interpretation of EC Regulation 261/2004 and confirms the previous interpretation of the Court in the case of Sturgeon (C-402/07). The regulation states at Article 3.1 that it will only be applicable to passengers departing from an airport located in the territory of a Member State and to passengers departing from an airport located in a third country to an airport situated in the territory of a Member State if the operating air carrier of the flight concerned is a Community carrier (i.e. an air carrier with a valid operating licence granted by a member state.)

The press release presented on behalf of the Court emphasises that in these cases there is a principle of equal treatment in that passengers who are delayed and passengers who have had their flights cancelled should be seen as suffering similar fates as they have both suffered the inconvenience of a loss of time. Therefore passengers whose flights are cancelled and have suffered a loss of time of over 3 hours can rely on the same right of compensation as a passenger who has suffered the same time loss through delay.

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