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Passengers to be compensated for delayed flights

19 November 2009

Airline passengers whose flights were delayed by more than 20 hours have won their claim to the same compensation as those whose flights have been cancelled.

Travellers booked on transatlantic flights with Condor and Air France respectively got to their destinations 25 and 22 hours later than expected.

They argued at the European Court of Justice that the EU’s regulation 261/2004 on compensation for cancelled flights should equally apply to their circumstances.

Upholding the claim in cases C-402/07 Sturgeon v Condor and C-432/07 Bock v Air France, the ECJ said that passengers affected by delays experience the same loss of time as those affected by cancellation.

These passengers were therefore in a comparable situation and should be awarded compensation.

There was no justification, the court said, for treating passengers whose flight is delayed any differently when they reach their final destination three hours or more after the scheduled arrival time.

Delayed flight could be regarded as cancelled, thus opening scope for compensation, where the airline arranged for passengers to travel on a different flight.

Airlines would escape liability if they could show that the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances beyond their control and which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

Technical problems could not be regarded as ‘exceptional circumstances’, the court added.

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