EU Court Broadens Application of Flight-Delay Compensation Law

The Court of Justice of the European Union last week broadened the application of airline passengers’ rights to claim flight-delay or cancellation compensation from non-EU airlines. According to Reuters, the EU’s top court ruled in favor of three plaintiffs who sued United Airlines for compensation for a 223-minute delay on a flight between Brussels and San Jose, Calif.

The regulation in question, EC 261/2004, applies to disruptions from technical issues caused by the airline but not to disruptions that fall outside the airline’s control, such as extreme weather conditions or civil unrest. Previous application of the regulation covered any flights that originate and / or end in the EU with the caveat that flights that end in the EU must be operated by an EU-based airline, but any airline taking off from an EU country is subject to these rules.

The new ruling adjusts those parameters, broadening them to any carrier that “operates the entirety of the flight” on behalf of an EU airline, whether that carrier takes off or lands in the EU. In the particular CJEU case ruled on last week, the plaintiffs departed from Brussels but had a connecting flight in the US, which contributed to the extended delay. Compensation experts said that US connection would have been a blocker in the past.

“While this [flight] previously would have been exempt because of the US connection and carrier, the court stated that a connecting flight falls within the scope of the regulation on the ground that the passengers have started their journey from an airport located in the EU, “said Julian Navas, legal strategy manager for flight compensation management company Airhelp.

“This is a major step in the right direction for travelers’ rights, as it protects travelers more even when outside the EU,” he added. “We hope this paves the way for stronger protections down the road.”

Under EC 261, travelers on flights that experience avoidable disruptions, defined as delays over three hours, last-minute cancellations or denied boarding, can claim up to $ 700 in compensation from the airline. Whether and how corporations should manage such claims has been a sticky issue; however, some travel third-party providers, including travel management companies, have launched services designed to assist corporates in such claims.

The US has no laws that open flight disruption compensation to passengers.

The Court of Justice of the European Union last week broadened the application of airline passengers’ rights to claim flight-delay or cancellation compensation from non-EU airlines. According to Reuters, the EU’s top court ruled in favor of three plaintiffs who sued United Airlines for compensation for a 223-minute delay on a flight between Brussels and…

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