Passenger rights protection under the EU261 framework is some of the strongest in the world. Most airlines hate it, of course, but for travelers it eases the risk of flight delays and cancellations. Alas, when the rules were crafted many useful details were left to interpretation which means that lawsuits across Europe are a big part of what the law really means. Earlier this month a couple more suits were ruled on by an appeals court judge, both strongly support paying out in favor of passengers. This is mostly great news for those traveling on a connecting itinerary beyond the EU.
Emirates was the target of both lawsuits, with passengers traveling from Manchester, UK to Bangkok and Sydney. In both cases the flight from Manchester was delayed causing a misconnect at Dubai. Emirates argues that it is only liable to pay EU261 compensation for the segment from the EU to Dubai; anything beyond that is not covered by the rules. In the Sydney case (Buckley v Emirates) the flight delay from Manchester to Dubai was shorter than the minimum required to compensate the passenger and Emirates wanted to avoid that payout. The judge rules that the full itinerary is what matters and a misconnect to the final destination means paying out, even if the flight from the EU isn’t sufficiently delayed to cause a payout on its own.
In the Bangkok case (Gahan v Emirates) the passenger initially collected only 300 euro based on an arrival in Dubai just under 4 hours late. The Ms. Gahan appealed based on arrival at the final destination being 13+ hours late. Based on the concept of the final destination being the relevant bit Gahan’s compensation was increased to 600 euro.
… where a carrier provides a passenger with more than one flight to enable him to arrive at his destination, the flights are taken together for the purpose of assessing whether there has been three hours or more delay.
While the focus by the courts on final destination is not new the willingness of airlines to agree with that interpretation remains limited. With this appeals court ruling in the Gahan/Buckley case now set hopefully passengers will face fewer fights on this front going forward.
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