Air transportation: latest judgments of the Court of Justice of the EU

plane-question

With reference to Air Transportation, the Court of Justice of the European Union has recently established some important principles concerning, for example, the concepts of ‘arrival time’, ‘denied boarding’, ‘cancellation’, ‘extraordinary circumstances’, ‘all reasonable measures’, ‘damage’, ‘compensation’, and of ‘time-limits for bringing actions for compensation’.


1) The Court of Justice of the European Union on Air Transportation

With reference to Air Transportation, the Court of Justice  has recently established the following:

– the concept of ‘arrival time’ refers to the time at which at least one of the doors of the aircraft is opened;

– compensation is payable to a passenger that has arrived at the final destination at least three hours later than the scheduled arrival time;

– time-limits for bringing actions for compensation are determined in accordance with the rules of each Member State on the limitation of actions;

– the concept of ‘denied boarding’ must be interpreted as relating not only to cases where boarding is denied because of overbooking but also to those where boarding is denied on other grounds, such as operational reasons;

– ‘cancellation’ does not refer only to the situation in which the airplane in question fails to take off at all, but it also covers the case in which that airplane took off but, for whatever reason, was subsequently forced to return to the airport of departure;

a technical problem in an aircraft which leads to the cancellation or delay of a flight is not covered by the concept of ‘extraordinary circumstances’;

a flight which is delayed, irrespective of the duration of the delay, even if it is long, cannot be regarded as cancelled where the flight is operated in accordance with the air carrier’s original planning;

the fact that an air carrier has complied with the minimum rules on maintenance of an aircraft cannot in itself suffice to establish that that carrier has taken ‘all reasonable measures’ and, therefore, to relieve that carrier of its obligation to pay compensation;

– the term ‘damage’ that sets the limit of an air carrier’s liability for the damage resulting, inter alia, from the loss of baggage, must be interpreted as including both material and non-material damage.

2) Latest judgments on Air Transportation

The following texts are extracts from the judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union that summarize the most relevant principles on Air Transportation established by the judgments themselves.

1) Articles 2, 5 and 7 of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91, must be interpreted as meaning that the concept of ‘arrival time’, which is used to determine the length of the delay to which passengers on a flight have been subject, refers to the time at which at least one of the doors of the aircraft is opened, the assumption being that, at that moment, the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft (Court of Justice of the European Union, Ninth Chamber, September 4, 2014, Case C-452/13).

2) Article 7(1) of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91, must be interpreted as meaning that the concept of ‘distance’ relates, in the case of air routes with connecting flights, only to the distance calculated between the first point of departure and the final destination on the basis of the ‘great circle’ method, regardless of the distance actually flown (Court of Justice of the European Union, Eighth Chamber, September 7 2017, Case C‑559/16).

3) Article 7 of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91 must be interpreted as meaning that compensation is payable, on the basis of that article, to a passenger on directly connecting flights who has been delayed at departure for a period below the limits specified in Article 6 of that regulation, but has arrived at the final destination at least three hours later than the scheduled arrival time, given that the compensation in question is not conditional upon there having been a delay at departure and, thus, upon the conditions set out in Article 6 having been met (Court of Justice of the European Union, Grand Chamber, February 26, 2013, Case C‑11/11).

4) Articles 5(1)(b) and 9 of Regulation No 261/2004 must be interpreted as meaning that, in the event of cancellation of a flight due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’ of a duration such as that in the main proceedings, the obligation to provide care to air passengers laid down in those provisions must be complied with, and the validity of those provisions is not affected.
However, an air passenger may only obtain, by way of compensation for the failure of the air carrier to comply with its obligation referred to in Articles 5(1)(b) and 9 of Regulation No 261/2004 to provide care, reimbursement of the amounts which, in the light of the specific circumstances of each case, proved necessary, appropriate and reasonable to make up for the shortcomings of the air carrier in the provision of care to that passenger, a matter which is for the national court to assess (Court of Justice of the European Union, Third Chamber, January 31, 2013, Case C-12/11).

5) Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91 must be interpreted as meaning that the time-limits for bringing actions for compensation under Articles 5 and 7 of that regulation are determined in accordance with the rules of each Member State on the limitation of actions (Court of Justice of the European Union, Third Chamber, November 22, 2012, Case C-139/11).

6) Articles 5 to 7 of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91, must be interpreted as meaning that passengers whose flights are delayed are entitled to compensation under that regulation where they suffer, on account of such flights, a loss of time equal to or in excess of three hours, that is, where they reach their final destination three hours or more after the arrival time originally scheduled by the air carrier. Such a delay does not, however, entitle passengers to compensation if the air carrier can prove that the long delay is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken, namely circumstances beyond the actual control of the air carrier (Court of Justice of the European Union, Grand Chamber, October 23, 2012, Joined Cases C‑581/10 and C‑629/10).

7) The concept of ‘denied boarding’, within the meaning of Articles 2(j) and 4 of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91, must be interpreted as relating not only to cases where boarding is denied because of overbooking but also to those where boarding is denied on other grounds, such as operational reasons.
Articles 2(j) and 4(3) of Regulation No 261/2004 must be interpreted as meaning that the occurrence of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ resulting in an air carrier rescheduling flights after those circumstances arose cannot give grounds for denying boarding on those later flights or for exempting that carrier from its obligation, under Article 4(3) of that regulation, to compensate a passenger to whom it denies boarding on such a flight (Court of Justice of the European Union, Third Chamber, October 4, 2012, Case C-22/11).

8) ‘Cancellation’, as defined in Article 2(1) of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91, must be interpreted as meaning that, in a situation such as that at issue in the main proceedings, it does not refer only to the situation in which the airplane in question fails to take off at all, but also covers the case in which that airplane took off but, for whatever reason, was subsequently forced to return to the airport of departure where the passengers of the said airplane were transferred to other flights (Court of Justice of the European Union, Third Chamber, October 13, 2011, Case C-83/10).

9) Article 5(3) of Regulation No 261/2004 must be interpreted as meaning that a technical problem in an aircraft which leads to the cancellation or delay of a flight is not covered by the concept of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ within the meaning of that provision, unless that problem stems from events which, by their nature or origin, are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned and are beyond its actual control (Court of Justice of the European Union, Fourth Chamber, November 19, 2009, Joined Cases C‑402/07 and C‑432/07).

10) Articles 2(l), 5 and 6 of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91, must be interpreted as meaning that a flight which is delayed, irrespective of the duration of the delay, even if it is long, cannot be regarded as cancelled where the flight is operated in accordance with the air carrier’s original planning (Court of Justice of the European Union, Fourth Chamber, November 19, 2009, Joined Cases C‑402/07 and C‑432/07).

11) The fact that an air carrier has complied with the minimum rules on maintenance of an aircraft cannot in itself suffice to establish that that carrier has taken ‘all reasonable measures’ within the meaning of Article 5(3) of Regulation No 261/2004 and, therefore, to relieve that carrier of its obligation to pay compensation provided for by Articles 5(1)(c) and 7(1) of that regulation (Court of Justice of the European Union, Fourth Chamber, December 22, 2008, Case C‑549/07).

12) Article 5(3) of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91, must be interpreted as meaning that a technical problem in an aircraft which leads to the cancellation of a flight is not covered by the concept of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ within the meaning of that provision, unless that problem stems from events which, by their nature or origin, are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned and are beyond its actual control. The Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, concluded in Montreal on 28 May 1999, is not decisive for the interpretation of the grounds of exemption under Article 5(3) of Regulation No 261/2004 (Court of Justice of the European Union, Fourth Chamber, December 22, 2008, Case C‑549/07).

13) Article 3(1)(a) of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91, must be interpreted as not applying to the case of an outward and return journey in which passengers who have originally departed from an airport located in the territory of a Member State to which the EC Treaty applies travel back to that airport on a flight from an airport located in a non-member country. The fact that the outward and return flights are the subject of a single booking has no effect on the interpretation of that provision ( Court of Justice of the European Union, Fourth Chamber, July 10, 2008, Case C‑173/07). 

14) Article 22(2) of the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, concluded in Montreal on 28 May 1999, signed by the European Community on 9 December 1999 and approved on its behalf by Council Decision 2001/539/EC of 5 April 2001, read in conjunction with Article 3(3) of that convention, must be interpreted as meaning that the right to compensation and the limits to a carrier’s liability in the event of loss of baggage apply also to a passenger who claims that compensation by virtue of the loss of baggage checked in in another passenger’s name, provided that that lost baggage did in fact contain the first passenger’s items (Court of Justice of the European Union, Third Chamber, November 22, 2012, Case C‑410/11).

15) The term ‘damage’, which underpins Article 22(2) of the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, concluded in Montreal on 28 May 1999, that sets the limit of an air carrier’s liability for the damage resulting, inter alia, from the loss of baggage, must be interpreted as including both material and non-material damage (Court of Justice of the European Union, Third Chamber, May 6, 2010, Case C‑63/09).

16) Where a court against whose decisions there is a judicial remedy under national law considers that one or more arguments for invalidity of a Community act which have been put forward by the parties or, as the case may be, raised by it of its own motion are well founded, it must stay proceedings and make a reference to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling on the act’s validity.

Examination of the questions referred to the Court has revealed no factor of such a kind as to affect the validity of Articles 5, 6 and 7 of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91 (Court of Justice of the European Union, Grand Chamber, January 10, 2006, Case C-344/04).

The purpose of this post is exclusively informative/divulgative. Vademecum Italia, therefore, invites readers to read the entire text of the above judgments in order to properly understand their meaning or to ask a lawyer for further assistance.


Claudia

Claudia

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