Flight delay compensation rules have changed – this is what you need to know
New changes have kicked in this week after two passengers tried to make a very controversial claim.
Flight delay compensation has been a hot topic in the media in recent times and this week its back in the limelight again. The Court of Justice of the European Union has officially ruled that a collision between an aircraft and a bird ‘is’ now classed as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’.
What the law says
The relevant law is known as Regulation EC261(“the Regulations”). The basic rule under the Regulation is:
a) If your flight took off from an EU airport; or
b) If you landed at an EU airport with an airline that is based in the EU;
c) You arrived at your final destination at least three hours late;
you are entitled to flight delay compensation. However, if the cause of the delay was down to an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ the airlines have a defence and therefore do not have to pay out.
It’s the definition of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and therefore what is and isn’t included within this that has caused so much debate in and out of the courts.
Bird strike case: What exactly happened?
The case in question was brought by two passengers who had travelled in 2013 from Burgas in Bulgaria to Ostrava in the Czech Republic, via Brno. The flight had already been delayed because of a technical fault, then was set back further when the aircraft required checks following a bird strike while landing at Brno. Overall, the flight was delayed by five hours and 20 minutes. The passengers brought a claim for around €250 each and said they had the right to compensation under EU regulations as the flight was delayed more than three hours. The Czech court sent the case to the EU Court of Justice to test whether a collision with a bird was classified as an extraordinary circumstance and could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.
The court has ruled that bird strike is an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ as it is an event outside the carrier’s control. Judges, therefore, ruled the air carrier was released from its obligation to pay compensation.
What this means for you
If your flight is delayed due to a bird strike you are now almost certainly not going to be able to claim flight delay compensation under the Regulations. The only exception will be if you can show that there were certain measures that the airline should have taken to reduce or prevent the risks of collisions with birds, but failed to do so. However, this will be very rare and in addition, the court also found in this week’s judgement that airlines were not responsible for the failure of other entities such as airport managers or air traffic controllers to reduce the risk of an airstrike.
Dean Dunham – Sunday Mirror
Read more consumer advice articles here.
Do you have an unresolved complaint with an airline? Find out how we can help here.