The European Union’s Court of Justice this week ratified an earlier decision by lawmakers that air passengers subject to delays of three hours or more will be entitled to the same amount of compensation as those whose flights have been cancelled.
A little known EU regulation, which was instituted back in 2004, stipulates that passengers whose flights are delayed by a duration of three or more hours will be entitled to compensation of between €250 and €600, depending on the length of their flight. The rule applies to all circumstances in which the airline is at fault – and so extreme weather, terrorist alerts or other extraordinary circumstances would not result in compensation.
Unsurprisingly, the regulation was deeply unpopular with airlines when it was first introduced. Carriers have since made dozens of attempts to squirm their way out of their obligation to pay compensation, which led to both the High Court of Justice in the UK, and the Local Court in Cologne, Germany, asking for clarification from the EU’s Court of Justice.
The latest decision by the Court of Justice confirms that EC 261, as the regulation is known, fulfills all necessary principles of EU law, including that of legal certainty, equal treatment and proportionality. In addition, the ruling confirms that the regulation is compatible with the Montreal Convention on aviation.
In a further disappointment for airlines, the court also ruled that there should be no temporal restrictions on the decision, potentially opening the floodgates for a barrage of retrospective claims from delayed air passengers.