(CN) – Europe’s highest court agreed Thursday that damage to a plane’s tire from a loose screw on the runway qualifies as an extraordinary event. Without showing that an ensuing 3.5-hour delay was unavoidable, however, the airline Germanwings may have to pay up to passengers.
The screw turned up on Aug. 28, 2015, as Germanwings prepared to depart Dublin, Ireland, for Dusseldorf, Germany.
Because Germanwings had to replace the tire, the flight wound up getting delayed for three hours and 28 minutes.
This delay exceeded the three-hour limit in EU law, triggering passenger Wolfgang Pauels to seek compensation, but Germanwings refused to pay on the grounds that the delay was the result of extraordinary circumstances.
The airline appealed when the local court in Cologne ordered it to pay Pauels 250 euros, finding the screw damage inherent in its normal duties.
To allow for input on EU law, the case went before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
That court’s third chamber ruled Thursday that screw damage to a tire is indeed extraordinary, but Germanwings may still have to pay if it cannot show that it did everything in its power to minimize the delay.
“It is for the air carrier concerned to prove that it deployed all its resources in terms of staff or equipment and the financial means at its disposal in order to avoid the changing of the tyre damaged by a foreign object lying on an airport runway from leading to long delay of the flight in question, which is for the referring court to ascertain,” the ruling states.