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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Airline Slapped in EU for Flight-Delay Excuses

(CN) - In an effort to find ways to avoid compensating customers for flight delays, European airlines have gotten creative with their excuses.

After German carrier Condor's flight from Turkey to Frankfurt suffered a delay of more than six hours, three passengers sued for compensation under the EU's rule that airlines must pay for both cancellations and delays of longer than three hours.

But the law also allows an air carrier to avoid compensating customers if it can prove that "extraordinary circumstances" led to the delay. So Condor blamed the delay on wing damage caused by a gate collision between the plane and a set of mobile boarding stairs, calling the event an extraordinary circumstance that relieved it of its duty to pay.

In an order released Friday - the EU judiciary's equivalent of deciding a case on the merits without oral argument - the European Court of Justice ruled that technical problems are rarely extraordinary enough to justify not compensating customers for the delays the problems cause.

In this case, because mobile boarding stairs are used daily and are indispensible for boarding and deplaning, collisions between the stairs and planes are bound to happen and can't be considered extraordinary circumstances, the court concluded.

The Luxembourg-based court did not make its order available in English.

EU passengers enjoy stringently enforced rights on all manner of transport, but particularly on airplanes.

Last year, the Court of Justice hammered out those rights still further by ruling that even the week-long cancellations that plagued European airspace after the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano did not constitute enough of an extraordinary circumstance to avoid compensating flyers.

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