EU Flight Delay Compensation Rules Clarified by Court of Justice

The Court of Justice in Luxembourg has clarified EU flight delay compensation rules about how the arrival time of a delayed flight should be recorded.

When the original EU flight delay compensation rules were originally enacted in 2004, there were a number of elements that were absent from the legislation. One such element was how the arrival time of a delayed flight should be recorded.

This is an essential part of the EU flight delay compensation rules because flights can depart more than three hours later than their scheduled departure time, but make up time in the air and arrive at a destination less than three hours later than the scheduled arrival time.

Flight delay compensation is only payable when a flight arrives at its destination three hours or more later than its scheduled arrival time, but there have been some disputes over what constitutes the arrival time of a flight – with airlines claiming it is when the wheels of the aircraft touch the tarmac of the runway.

However, any passenger who has arrived at a busy airport will be aware that there can be a considerable passage of time before they can disembark; and clarification of the EU flight delay compensation rules was recently sought by a group of passengers who experienced a late arrival on a Germanwings flight from Salzburg to Cologne/Bonn.

Germanwings refused to pay flight delay compensation as the wheels of the aircraft touched down 2 hours and 58 minutes later than the plane´s scheduled arrival time. The dissatisfied passengers joined forces, and took their claims for delayed flight compensation to the Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

At the hearing, the judges ruled that the arrival time of a delayed flight should be recorded as the moment the first door is opened to allow passengers to disembark – resolving the claims in favour of the Germanwings passengers and clarifying another element of the EU flight delay compensation rules.