The Court of Justice of the European Union (the CJEU) has today released its judgment in the case of Van der Lans v KLM (Case C-257/14) which considers whether unforeseen technical problems amount to an extraordinary circumstance defence under Regulation 261/2004.

Following the English Supreme Court’s refusal to allow Jet 2 to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal inHuzar the Van der Lans case was seen by many as a last lifeline to airlines who following the judgment in Huzar have been faced with a new wave of compensation claims for delays arising from technical problems.

The CJEU has today put paid to any such hopes by first re-confirming the line taken in Wallentin that whilst technical may problems may in fact constitute extraordinary circumstances, those problems will only be ‘extraordinary’ if they are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier – and beyond its actual control (i.e. a hidden manufacturing defect).

In Van der Lans, KLM sought to argue that certain technical problems constitute an unexpected event, that should be distinguished from the type of scenario envisaged in Wallentin.

Addressing these purported ‘unexpected events’, the CJEU today has held that an unexpected event – such as the premature malfunction of a certain component – is something that an air carrier is confronted with ‘as a matter of course’ and that the prevention of or response to such an event is not something that is beyond that carrier’s actual control.

Following today’s judgment therefore, a technical problem is not an extraordinary circumstance.

Laura Halfhide