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Aviation

Compensation for 15-hour flight delay denied

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Legal news
calendar 19 June 2019
globus Denmark

The City Court of Kolding in Denmark has recently passed a ruling that denied two passengers a compensation for a flight delay of almost 15 hours. IUNO review the reasoning behind the ruling and examine how carriers may guard themselves against unjustified claims.

Generally, Danish courts are very reluctant denying delayed passengers a compensation in cases regulated by EC Regulation 261/2004 on compensation and assistance to flight passengers. Nonetheless, the City Court of Kolding recently denied two passengers’ claim for compensation even though the passengers’ arrival was delayed by almost 15 hours.

Case overview

Two passengers were travelling from Lisbon to Frankfurt and onward to Billund in Denmark. The journey had a scheduled time of arrival in Billund at 9.40 PM the same day as the departure. However, the passengers’ flight from Lisbon was delayed. The delay was caused by the earlier rotation not being able to land in Lisbon due to a fire in the airport.

The flight from Lisbon did not depart at the scheduled time and therefore arrived at Frankfurt with a delay of 3 hours and 21 minutes. The delayed arrival caused the passengers to miss the flight to Billund.

The air carrier rebooked the passengers to another flight to Billund that arrived the following day at 1.25 PM. The passengers time of arrival was thus delayed by almost 15 hours.

EC Regulation 261/2004

The EU Court’s ruling in the Sturgeon-case clarified, that passengers whose time of arrival is delayed more than 3 hours, are entitled to compensation on the same terms as passengers whose flight is cancelled. The passengers in the present case were delayed for almost 15 hours and were therefore, initially, entitled to a compensation of 400 EUR per passenger.

Nonetheless, the EC Regulation prescribes, that air carriers are not obliged to pay compensation to delayed passengers if the air carrier can prove, that the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances, which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

Therefore, in order to be exempt from liability, the air carrier had to prove

  1. that the fire in Lisbon constituted an extraordinary circumstance
  2. that the extraordinary circumstance could not have been avoided even if the air carrier had taken further measures to avoid it.

The passengers claimed, that the air carrier, as a reasonable measure, was obliged to rebook the passengers to the first available flight to their destination. The air carrier challenged this and stated that the obligation to reroute the passengers as prescribed in article 8 is not necessarily a right to be rerouted to the first available departure. Furthermore, the air carrier stated that rerouting is not a part of the measures listed in article 5, as these measures are only relevant to the extraordinary circumstance itself.

The air carrier in this individual case, chose to present information to the court regarding the rerouting that had been made.

The presented documentation

As documentation for its claim the air carrier presented the flight’s flight log, the air carrier’s delay codes, an ATC-report from the German civil authority as well as information on different flights to Billund.

The flight’s flightlog showed two codes indicating, that the flight to Frankfurt was delayed due to the delay of the earlier rotation, that was prevented from landing due to ATC-restrictions. The ATC-report supported this by stating, that the earlier rotation and the flight in question were both affected by the restrictions.

The air carrier argued, that the ATC-restrictions constituted an extraordinary circumstance and that the delay was caused by the restrictions. Furthermore, the air carrier stated, that the ATC-restrictions were beyond the control of the air carrier.

The information regarding the available flights to Billund was used to prove, that the air carrier had offered a reasonable rerouting to the passengers.

The court’s ruling

The City Court of Kolding found it sufficiently proved

  1. that the delayed arrival at Billund was due to ATC-restrictions
  2. that the ATC-restrictions were caused by the fire in the airport in Lisbon
  3. that the restrictions constituted an extraordinary circumstance
  4. that the air carrier could not have taken further measures to avoid the extraordinary circumstances
  5. and that the passengers would not have arrived earlier at their destination if they had been rebooked onto a different flight.

Based in its findings, the court ruled that the air carrier was not obliged to pay compensation to the passengers.

IUNO’s opinion

Air carriers should always make sure, that they have a practice that ensures, that relevant data are stored in case of a delay. This ensures that the air carrier has the relevant documentation on hand if the case goes to court.

IUNO’s recommendation is to always store the flight log and to collect an ATC-report or statement from the relevant authority. To ease the court’s understanding of the case, it is advisable to keep a simple and easily accessible overview of delay codes, that can be presented to the court.

Furthermore, air carriers should see to, that passengers are rebooked as according to EC Regulation 261/2004 article 8. The rebooking does not affect passengers’ right to compensation according to article 7, but if passengers are not offered a rerouting this could potentially make the air carrier liable for any losses the passengers may have suffered, if the passengers buy a new ticket with a faster time of arrival.

Generally, Danish courts are very reluctant denying delayed passengers a compensation in cases regulated by EC Regulation 261/2004 on compensation and assistance to flight passengers. Nonetheless, the City Court of Kolding recently denied two passengers’ claim for compensation even though the passengers’ arrival was delayed by almost 15 hours.

Case overview

Two passengers were travelling from Lisbon to Frankfurt and onward to Billund in Denmark. The journey had a scheduled time of arrival in Billund at 9.40 PM the same day as the departure. However, the passengers’ flight from Lisbon was delayed. The delay was caused by the earlier rotation not being able to land in Lisbon due to a fire in the airport.

The flight from Lisbon did not depart at the scheduled time and therefore arrived at Frankfurt with a delay of 3 hours and 21 minutes. The delayed arrival caused the passengers to miss the flight to Billund.

The air carrier rebooked the passengers to another flight to Billund that arrived the following day at 1.25 PM. The passengers time of arrival was thus delayed by almost 15 hours.

EC Regulation 261/2004

The EU Court’s ruling in the Sturgeon-case clarified, that passengers whose time of arrival is delayed more than 3 hours, are entitled to compensation on the same terms as passengers whose flight is cancelled. The passengers in the present case were delayed for almost 15 hours and were therefore, initially, entitled to a compensation of 400 EUR per passenger.

Nonetheless, the EC Regulation prescribes, that air carriers are not obliged to pay compensation to delayed passengers if the air carrier can prove, that the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances, which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

Therefore, in order to be exempt from liability, the air carrier had to prove

  1. that the fire in Lisbon constituted an extraordinary circumstance
  2. that the extraordinary circumstance could not have been avoided even if the air carrier had taken further measures to avoid it.

The passengers claimed, that the air carrier, as a reasonable measure, was obliged to rebook the passengers to the first available flight to their destination. The air carrier challenged this and stated that the obligation to reroute the passengers as prescribed in article 8 is not necessarily a right to be rerouted to the first available departure. Furthermore, the air carrier stated that rerouting is not a part of the measures listed in article 5, as these measures are only relevant to the extraordinary circumstance itself.

The air carrier in this individual case, chose to present information to the court regarding the rerouting that had been made.

The presented documentation

As documentation for its claim the air carrier presented the flight’s flight log, the air carrier’s delay codes, an ATC-report from the German civil authority as well as information on different flights to Billund.

The flight’s flightlog showed two codes indicating, that the flight to Frankfurt was delayed due to the delay of the earlier rotation, that was prevented from landing due to ATC-restrictions. The ATC-report supported this by stating, that the earlier rotation and the flight in question were both affected by the restrictions.

The air carrier argued, that the ATC-restrictions constituted an extraordinary circumstance and that the delay was caused by the restrictions. Furthermore, the air carrier stated, that the ATC-restrictions were beyond the control of the air carrier.

The information regarding the available flights to Billund was used to prove, that the air carrier had offered a reasonable rerouting to the passengers.

The court’s ruling

The City Court of Kolding found it sufficiently proved

  1. that the delayed arrival at Billund was due to ATC-restrictions
  2. that the ATC-restrictions were caused by the fire in the airport in Lisbon
  3. that the restrictions constituted an extraordinary circumstance
  4. that the air carrier could not have taken further measures to avoid the extraordinary circumstances
  5. and that the passengers would not have arrived earlier at their destination if they had been rebooked onto a different flight.

Based in its findings, the court ruled that the air carrier was not obliged to pay compensation to the passengers.

IUNO’s opinion

Air carriers should always make sure, that they have a practice that ensures, that relevant data are stored in case of a delay. This ensures that the air carrier has the relevant documentation on hand if the case goes to court.

IUNO’s recommendation is to always store the flight log and to collect an ATC-report or statement from the relevant authority. To ease the court’s understanding of the case, it is advisable to keep a simple and easily accessible overview of delay codes, that can be presented to the court.

Furthermore, air carriers should see to, that passengers are rebooked as according to EC Regulation 261/2004 article 8. The rebooking does not affect passengers’ right to compensation according to article 7, but if passengers are not offered a rerouting this could potentially make the air carrier liable for any losses the passengers may have suffered, if the passengers buy a new ticket with a faster time of arrival.

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