Changes afoot for EU flight delay compensation laws
Advocate General sets out updates to legislation
by Luke Whitmore, 15th May 2012
The Advocate General for the EU, Yves Bot, has suggested that the right to compensation for airline passengers who suffer from lengthy flight delays should be clearly established under European law.
This would mean setting out explicit regulations addressing flight delays of more than three hours which occur on flights departing from an EU member state, or flights with a destination within the EU with an EU airline. These situations are not adequately addressed within the current legislation, which covers only cancelled flights.
The European Court of Justice already tends towards mandating compensation for those who find their travel plans disrupted by delayed flights, with one particular claim in 2009, known as the Sturgeon case, setting precedent after two different groups of passengers suffered delays of more than 22 hours.
Despite the fact that rulings often go in favour of passengers, however, there is no clear law addressing the issue, unlike those whose flights are cancelled, who are legally entitled to recompense from the airline, with the size of the payout determined by the distance they were intending to travel and how much of a delay they experienced. Current legislation on flight delays only places an obligation on airlines to provide assistance, such as accommodation and meals, to the affected passengers.
Bot dismissed protests from airlines claiming that it would place airlines under a heavy financial burden, pointing out that very few flight delays actually extend to three hours or more. Airlines would also be exempted from having to pay out if they could demonstrate that the reason for the flight being delayed was down to "exceptional circumstances".
The Advocate General's proposals will need to be ratified by the European Court of Justice before becoming law, but the issue has been under consideration for some time so this is expected to happen later this year.