On November 13 2015 the Dusseldorf Regional Court ruled(1) that if a flight is delayed due to severe weather conditions and a connecting flight is missed as a result, passengers have no right to compensation pursuant to EU Regulation 261/2004, because the extraordinary circumstances defence applies.

Facts

In two lawsuits the plaintiffs claimed compensation pursuant to Articles 7 and 5 of Regulation 261/2004 due to a missed connecting flight as a consequence of a delay in the previous flight.

In both cases the plaintiffs had booked a travel package through a travel agency and tour operator, including flights from Dusseldorf via Dubai to Bangkok and back. The flights were scheduled for February 22 2014. At this time severe fog in Dubai affected all flights to and from Dubai airport. The inbound flight from Dubai arrived in Dusseldorf with a three-hour delay and caused an equal delay in the flight from Dusseldorf to Dubai. The circulation time between the two flights was three hours. The flight from Dusseldorf arrived in Dubai 22 minutes before the departure of the connecting flight

The plaintiffs missed their connecting flight from Dubai to Bangkok and claimed €600 per person, according to the regulation. They stated that it would have been a reasonable measure for the airline to have postponed the connecting flight's departure.

Decision

The Dusseldorf Regional Court ruled that the extraordinary circumstances defence pursuant to Article 5(3) of the regulation applies in cases in which the flight in question has been delayed due to severe weather conditions. The finding was not affected by the fact that the weather conditions in this case had a direct impact on the first flight only. The flight from Dusseldorf to Dubai was delayed by approximately three hours due to severe fog in Dubai, which led to a delay of the inbound flight. Consequently, the claimants missed their connection to Bangkok.

According to the court, extreme weather conditions can lead to extraordinary circumstances, even though this kind of severe fog tends to occur only twice a year. The court stated that the frequency of disruptions was not a decisive factor in this context. It also made clear that the airline was not supposed to reschedule the departure of the connecting flight in order to make boarding possible for delayed passengers. This would have had an unreasonable effect on the flight rotation. In addition, the court stated that the airline had taken all reasonable measures and was not obliged to provide an alternative aircraft. Further, the court found that the circulation time between the flights in Dusseldorf was sufficient.

Comment

The court's decision confirms the principles developed by the Federal Court of Justice in its June 12 2014 decision and clarifies whether an airline is obliged to delay further flights in order transfer passengers from a delayed flight.

It is welcome that the court does not expect such measures from the airline, given how difficult it would be to do so. In addition, the court does not regard the frequency of severe weather conditions as a decisive factor with regard to extraordinary circumstances.

For further information on this topic please contact Kamila Stroka or Ulrich Steppler at Arnecke Sibeth Rechtsanwaelte by telephone (+49 69 97 98 85 0) or email (kstroka@arneckesibeth.com or usteppler@arneckesibeth.com ). The Arnecke Sibeth website can be accessed at www.arneckesibeth.com.

Endnotes

(1) Case 22 S 149/15.

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