Airlines 'must pay' for 3-hour delays, says EU court
EU court tells carriers they must compensate passengers on connecting flights
Airlines were liable to compensate passengers on connecting flights who arrived 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 yesterday.
The ruling by the Luxembourg-based court cannot be appealed.
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 involving Deutsche Lufthansa, EasyJet and TUI Travel that passengers who arrive "three hours or more after the scheduled arrival time" have a right to compensation, except in "extraordinary" circumstances.
In the present case, Luz-Tereza Folkerts is seeking compensation from Air France after arriving 11 hours late in Asuncion, Paraguay, on a flight that took her from Bremen, Germany, to Paris and from Paris to Rio de Janeiro.
Air France is appealing against 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 21/2 hours and as a result the passenger missed her connecting flight.
The EU court ruled in 2009 that airlines had to compensate passengers who reached 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.
The new ruling was on one of more than 30 cases at the court on passenger rights, said Viktoria Vajnai, a spokeswoman for the Association of European Airlines.
"This is clear evidence that the current regulation is not coherent, and it is substantiated by the patchwork of rulings [by the EU Court of Justice]," Vajnai said.
The European Commission was planning to review rules on passenger rights, and airlines would 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 Group.