Court Says Spanish Airline Can’t Duck Suit in Germany

(CN) – After delays by a Spanish airline caused travelers to miss connecting flights to Germany, Europe’s highest court ruled Wednesday that the airline could still be sued in Germany since that was the travelers’ final destination.

The European Court of Justice issued the ruling in connection to two unrelated flights, one in July 2015 and another in August 2010.

Both flights were serviced through the Spanish airline Air Nostrum, whose delays caused the 2015 travelers to arrive 13 hours late at their ultimate destination of Dusseldorf, while the 2010 travelers arrived four hours late in Frankfurt am Main.

In the 2010 case, the District Court in Frankfurt am Main ordered Air Nostrum to pay the passengers 250 euros each for the delay. This ruling was put on hold, however, by the Regional Court, which ruled on appeal that the German courts did not have international jurisdiction.

Germany’s Federal Court of Justice in turn asked the European Court of Justice to weigh in on whether the flights must be considered separate despite the single booking, making jurisdiction proper in Spain.

The passengers on the 2015 flight meanwhile sued in Dusseldorf, where the court put the case on hold for determination of the same issue.

On Wednesday, the court in Luxembourg found that German courts do have jurisdiction to hear such claims.

The court also considered a third case as part of the same ruling, but this 2013 case concerned a man who missed a connecting flight in Brussels.

Unlike the other traveler-plaintiffs, this passenger flew out of Berlin, stopping in Brussels where he was to make a connecting flight to Beijing.

Hainan Airlines was operating the second flight, but denied the passenger boarding, causing him to return to Berlin and book a second flight to Beijing direct.

The passenger sued Hainan Airlines in Berlin-Wedding, but the courts there dismissed the case as inadmissible.

Wednesday’s ruling says that the Brussels I Regulation cannot be said to govern this case because Hainan is domiciled in China.

“If the defendant is not domiciled in a member state, the jurisdiction of the courts of each member state is to be determined by the law of that member state,” the ruling states.

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