The Frankfurt Local Court recently decided that a passenger's claim for compensation pursuant to EU Regulation 261/2004 requires an accepted reservation by the airline. A confirmed reservation by a travel agency or tour operator is insufficient if the passenger is not booked on a specific flight.

Facts

In this case, the claimants had booked a package tour online. The booking portal confirmed the reservation. On the day of departure the claimants were denied boarding. They claim that they had a confirmed reservation and the flight was simply overbooked. The airline argued that the claimants had never been booked onto that flight and their names did not appear on the passenger list. It could not be clarified whether the travel agency was responsible for this mistake or whether the airline's reservation system failed.

Decision

The court dismissed the claim. Pursuant to Article 3(2)(a) of Regulation 261/2004, the regulation applies where passengers have a confirmed reservation on a flight. Article 2(g) of the regulation defines 'reservation' as "the fact that the passenger has a ticket, or other proof, which indicates that the reservation has been accepted and registered by the air carrier or tour operator".

According to the court, the passengers failed to prove that they had a confirmed reservation. The passengers had confirmation saying that the reservation had been accepted by the tour operator; however, no proof was given that the reservation had been accepted by the airline. For this purpose, it would have sufficed if the passengers' names had appeared on the passenger list. Since the passengers were not listed, the court assumed that the reservation had never been accepted by the airline. Hence, the court stated that the travel documents issued by the tour operator (itinerary and ticket) lacked an actual basis. Since the concrete circumstances regarding the electronic booking process could not be clarified, the claimants had no right to compensation pursuant to Article 7(1) of the regulation.

The decision is final.

Comment

In accordance with this judgment, a distinction must be made between actual acceptance of a reservation by the airline within the contract of carriage and the respective confirmation to the passenger. Only a confirmed reservation which is based on actual acceptance by the airline fulfils the conditions of Article 3(2)(a) and leads to the applicability of the regulation. This means that passengers have no right to compensation if an airline has not accepted a reservation and the tour operator or travel agency issues incorrect booking confirmation. The burden of proof regarding acceptance by the airline rests with the passenger, in this regard, it is sufficient that the passenger's name appears on the airline's passenger list.

For further information on this topic please contact Kathrin Lenz at Arnecke Sibeth Rechtsanwaelte by telephone (+49 69 97 98 85 0) or email (klenz@arneckesibeth.com). The ArneckeSibeth website can be accessed at www.arneckesibeth.com.

This article was first published by the International Law Office, a premium online legal update service for major companies and law firms worldwide. Register for a free subscription.