EU Court Expands Right to Be Paid for Flight Delays

LUXEMBOURG (CN) — Flight delayed in Europe? You’re entitled to compensation from the airline even if you booked your trip through a travel agency, the European Union’s top court said Thursday.

Passengers can claim flight delay compensation “even when the passenger and the airline have not concluded an agreement with each other and the flight in question forms part of a packaged tour,” the European Court of Justice said in Thursday’s ruling, which was not available in English.

In 2012, Libuše Králová booked a tour of Iceland, which included a flight from Prague, Czech Republic to Reykjavík, Iceland on Danish airline Primera Air Scandinavia. Her flight in April 2013 was delayed by more than four hours.

When she returned from her trip, Králová requested 400 euros ($438) in compensation for her flight delay. Under the EU’s Passenger Rights Act, air travelers in the 27-member state political and economic union are entitled to financial compensation if their flights are delayed.

But the airline denied her request, saying that the delay was “attributable to exceptional and unforeseeable circumstances” and thus did not qualify for compensation.

Králová filed a complaint with the District Court in Prague, which ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the case as Primera Air Scandinavia is headquartered in Denmark. Typically, EU regulations require complaints against a company to be filed in a national court where the company is headquartered.

The Prague court also said Králová wouldn’t be entitled to compensation because her contract was with the travel agency, not the airline.

She appealed the decision and the higher court referred the matter to the Court of Justice. The Luxembourg-based court is currently closed in light of the Covid-19 pandemic but is still issuing judgments in cases it heard before the outbreak began.

The Court of Justice ruled Thursday that Králová could file a complaint under the Passenger Rights Act because Primera Air Scandinavia was fulfilling its contractual obligations with the travel agency by flying Králová from Prague to Reykjavik.

As the court concluded the airline was liable to Králová on behalf of the travel agency, the question remained whether she could file her complaint in Prague. The EU’s highest court ruled in her favor, finding the suit could “be brought before one of the courts in the place of performance of the contractual obligations.” In other words, since the flight departed from Prague, Králová can bring her case before a court there.

The case now goes back to the Prague District Court to determine if, as the airline initially claimed, the delays were exceptional and therefore not eligible for compensation.

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