Last updated: 12:16 PM ET, Mon September 28 2015

European Courts Announce Landmark Ruling On Airline Compensation

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | September 28, 2015

European Courts Announce Landmark Ruling On Airline Compensation

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Score one for the passengers over the airlines.

In a major decision, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that airlines can no longer use technical faults as a reason for refusing to pay compensation to delayed passengers.

The case was referred to the ECJ by a court in Amsterdam after a passenger brought suit against KLM Airlines. The passenger’s flight was delayed 29 hours due to faulty parts, but KLM said it wasn’t to blame because the manufacturer of the parts didn’t warn the airline of potential defects once they had reached a certain age.

The court said in its ruling that "The airline must ensure the maintenance and proper functioning of all aircrafts used for commercial activities. No component of an aircraft is indestructible; these situations are inherent in the normal operations of an airline. Therefore, when a flight is cancelled due to unforeseen technical errors, the airline remains obliged to pay compensation to its passengers."

Passengers can claim €250 to €600, depending on the flight's distance, under current European Union compensation rules. The flight must be canceled or arrive more than three hours late in order to claim compensation on any flight departing from any EU airport or arriving in the EU with an EU carrier, or one from Iceland, Norway or Switzerland. 

It is likely the ruling will open the floodgates on thousands of compensation claims.

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