On June 22 2016 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided(1) on the interpretation of Articles 10(2) and 2(f) of EU Regulation 261/2004 and the calculation of a reimbursement owed to a passenger due to downgrading on a flight.
The plaintiff had booked a series of flights on a uniform ticket. All flights were operated by the defendant. The ticket did not show the individual price of each flight, but the entire price for all flights, as well as various taxes, fees and charges. On the first flight segment the plaintiff was downgraded from first class to business class. On all other flights he was seated in the requested booking class.
The plaintiff claimed reimbursement of 75% of the entire ticket price, including taxes, fees and charges, based on Article 10(2)(c) of the regulation. He argued that the price of a single flight is not known to the passenger and hence the entire ticket price must be the basis for calculating the reimbursement. The defendant was of the opinion that the passenger should be reimbursed only for the downgrade on the specific flight and that reimbursement should be 75% of the ticket price for the flight segment on which the downgrade occurred, excluding taxes, fees and charges.
The competent local court in Dusseldorf referred the case to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of Article 10(2), read in conjunction with Article 2(f).
The ECJ decided that Article 10(2), read in conjunction with Article 2(f), must be interpreted as meaning that where a passenger is downgraded on a flight, the price to be considered for determining the reimbursement is the price of the flight on which the passenger was downgraded. If that price is not separately indicated on the ticket, it must be based on the part of the price of the ticket corresponding to the quotient resulting from the distance of that flight and the total distance which the passenger is entitled to travel. The court further clarified that the price of the ticket relevant for determining the reimbursement is solely the price of the flight itself, to the exclusion of taxes and charges indicated on that ticket, as long as neither the requirement to pay those taxes and charges nor their amount depends on the class for which that ticket was purchased.
This is the first ECJ verdict clarifying the rules of downgrading and calculation of reimbursement owed to a passenger in case of downgrading. In this context, the ECJ upheld its view on the interpretation and concept of 'flight' under EU Regulation 261/2004 (Emirates Airlines Direktion für Deutschland v Diether Schenkel, C-173/07). Consequently applied, the interpretation of 'flight' should affect the scope and applicability of the regulation. The decision once again demonstrates the poor drafting of the regulation, which regularly occupies the courts.
For further information on this topic please contact Kathrin Lenz at Arnecke Sibeth Rechtsanwaelte by telephone (+49 69 97 98 85 0) or email ([email protected]). The Arnecke Sibeth website can be accessed at www.arneckesibeth.com.
(1) Steef Mennens v Emirates Direktion für Deutschland, C-255/15.