Airlines Must Compensate Transfer Delays, EU Court Rules
By Stephanie Bodoni – Feb 26, 2013 8:13 AM ET
Airlines are liable to compensate passengers on connecting flights who arrive at least three hours late at their final destination, the European Union’s highest court said.
“The fact that the original flight was not delayed beyond the limits laid down by EU law does not affect the right to compensation,” the EU Court of Justice ruled today. The Luxembourg-based court’s ruling can’t be appealed.
Air France is appealing an earlier compensation order. Photographer: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg
The EU tribunal has in recent years been asked to clarify the bloc’s law on compensation duties for airlines in a series of cases that were triggered by passenger compensation requests. The court has ruled in previous cases involvingDeutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA), EasyJet Plc (EZJ) and TUI Travel Plc (TT/) that passengers who arrive “three hours or more after the scheduled arrival time” have a right to compensation, except in “extraordinary” circumstances.
In today’s case, Luz-Tereza Folkerts is seeking compensation from Air France SA after arriving 11 hours late in Asuncion, Paraguay on a flight that took her from Bremen, Germany to Paris, France and from Paris to Rio de Janeiro.
Air France is appealing an earlier compensation order and the German tribunal handling the case asked the EU court whether the compensation duty still applied if the first leg of the flight was only delayed by 2.5 hours and as a result the passenger missed her connecting flight.
The EU court in 2009 ruled that airlines have to compensate passengers who reach their final destination that much later because of a flight delay. Carriers are exempt from compensation in cases of extraordinary circumstances, such as a strike or bad weather conditions.
Today’s ruling is one of more than 30 cases at the court on passenger rights, said Viktoria Vajnai, a spokeswoman for the Association of European Airlines, said in an e-mail.
“This is a clear evidence that the current regulation is not coherent, and it is substantiated by the patchwork of ECJ rulings,” Vajnai said. The European Commission is planning to review rules on passenger rights and airlines will contribute to legislators’ debate on the issue to represent airlines’ interests, she said.
Air France said it took note of the court ruling and declined to comment further, according to a company spokesman who asked not to be identified in line with the firm’s policy. Air France is the French airline unit of Air France-KLM (AF) Group.
The case is: Societe Air France S.A. v Heinz-Gerke Folkerts and Luz-Tereza Folkerts.
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