EU Court Clears Leased Airline on Flight-Delay Liability

(CN) – Travelers seeking compensation for a flight delay must take up their case with the company that fixed the itinerary, the European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday, giving a pass to an airline whose aircraft and crew were leased for the trip.

The case originated in Germany where Wolfgang Wirth and other passengers sought compensation for a lengthy delay in their flight from Hamburg to Cancun, Mexico.

Though the passengers reserved their seats with TUIfly, their booking confirmations noted that the flight would be operated by Thomson Airways, a sister company under the TUI Group umbrella.

TUIfly used Thomson aircraft and crew for the flight to Cancun under what is known as a wet lease, but Thomson denied that it was responsible to the passengers under the Air Passenger Rights rule.

The Hamburg Regional Court in turn sought input from the European Court of Justice, which sided Wednesday with Thomson.

“It follows that an air carrier which, in the course of its air passenger carriage activities, decides to perform a particular flight, including fixing its itinerary, and, by so doing, offers to conclude a contract of air carriage with members of the public must be regarded as the operating air carrier,” the ruling out of Luxembourg states. “The adoption of such a decision means that that air carrier bears the responsibility for performing the flight in question, including … any cancellation or significantly delayed time of arrival.”

As for companies that merely leased the aircraft and the crew, the court said they “cannot … be regarded as an ‘operating air carrier.’”

As for the booking confirmation, the court said the mention of Thomson operating the flight was irrelevant to determining the operating air carrier.

Recently rebranded as TUI Airways, Thomson Airways bills itself as the world’s largest charter airline.

After EasyJet and British Airways, the Arline was the United Kingdom’s third largest airline.

TUIfly meanwhile is now known as TUI fly Deutschland. It is headquartered at Hannover Airport.

Representatives for TUI Group have not returned an email seeking comment.

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