Airlines Fear Wave of Compensation Claims After EU Court Ruling
A new ruling by the European Court of Justice could force airlines to pay countless compensations for flights cancelled because of strikes, New Europe reports.
A ‘wildcat strike’ by flight staff following the surprise announcement of a restructuring does not constitute an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ , releasing the airline from its obligation to pay compensation in the event of cancellation or long delay of flight, ruled the European Court of Justice.
Several cases were brought to the EU’s Court of Justice after German airline TUIfly said a 2016 wildcat strike – one not formally initiated by a trade union – was an extraordinary event, and so it was not liable to compensate for delays.
EU regulation gives passengers on a delayed flight the right to compensation of up to 600 euros, depending on the distance of the flight.
Airlines whose operations are disrupted by strikes already have a strict duty of care to passengers. They are required to pay for meals and accommodation when necessary after cancellations and long delays. But it has always been thought that to add the obligation of compensation would give trade unions an unreasonable amount of power.
Airlines are exempt from paying this if they can show there were “extraordinary circumstances” which they could not have reasonably avoided.
The court disagreed with TUIfly, saying such circumstances were only applicable if they were not part of the normal activity of the airline and were beyond its control.
Judges said restructuring was part of normal business, with the foreseeable risk of disagreements and conflict with staff.
“The ‘wildcat strike’ at issue in the present case cannot be regarded as beyond TUIfly’s actual control,” the Court of Justice said.
The dispute, which saw staff placing themselves on sick leave, was brought to an end by an agreement in October 2016.
The court added that making a distinction between wildcat strikes and those organized by a trade union would make passenger compensation dependent on the rules in different EU countries, which could undermine air passenger rights.
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