The European Court of Justice has ruled that multiple flights booked as a single unit must be considered as a single journey under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, meaning a passenger who was delayed on the non-EU leg of her journey can still claim compensation under the statute.

The ruling, delivered on 31 May, came in response to a question submitted by the Landgericht regional court in Berlin, which is hearing passenger Claudia Wegener’s appeal against Moroccan flag carrier Royal Air Maroc’s decision to deny her compensation for delays to her journey from Berlin to Agadir, via Casablanca.

Both of Wegener’s flights were booked as a single unit with Royal Air Maroc. After the flight from Berlin was delayed, Wegener was denied boarding on her connecting flight as her seat had been given to another traveller. She eventually boarded another Royal Air Maroc flight and arrived in Agadir four hours behind schedule.

She applied for compensation for the delay; however, the airline said she was not entitled to make a claim under Regulation 261, which establishes rules on both compensation and assistance to passengers when they have been denied boarding, or their flight was delayed or cancelled.

Wegener went on to sue the airline in the Berlin regional court, which stayed the proceedings and asked the ECJ if Wegener’s trip should be considered a connecting flight, despite the change of aircraft in Casablanca, or as two separate flights.

The ECJ noted that article 3 of Regulation 261 holds that it only applies to flights departing from EU member states or from a third country to a member state. If Wegener’s second flight was considered a “separate transport operation”, it would not come under the remit of the regulation, the court said.

The court had already held in a previous case, it said, that an “irreversible loss of time” or delay must “materialise” at a journey’s final destination to trigger the right to compensation under the regulation, which, at article 2, says that the final destination of a flight is, in the case of a connecting flight, the destination of the last flight taken by the passenger.

The court noted that a connecting flight must be understood as two or more flights constituting a “whole” for the right to compensation under the regulation to apply and that this would hold when two flights are booked as a single unit, as in Wegener’s case. Therefore, the court ruled, Wegener’s trip should be considered as a single connecting flight, bringing it under the scope of article 3 of Regulation 261 and entitling her to compensation for the delay.

In the European Court of Justice

Claudia Wegener v Royal Air Maroc

  • Judge Jiří Malenovský, Judge Daniel Šváby and Judge Michail Vilaras.