The Dusseldorf Local Court (1) recently decided that passengers do not have a right to compensation if, according to the meaning of Articles 7(2) and 8 of EU Regulation 261/2004, an alternative flight is cancelled.
In this case, the claimants had booked a package tour to Abu Dhabi, including round-trip tickets departing from Dusseldorf with airline A. The flight from Dusseldorf to Abu Dhabi was cancelled on short notice and the plaintiffs were re-routed on alternative flights from Dusseldorf to Munich with airline B, and further from Munich to Dubai with airline C (the defendant). For the last leg of the journey from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, bus transport was offered. In Munich, the claimants were informed that the alternative flight to Dubai was also cancelled. They were offered hotel accommodation and were re-routed once again on another flight the next day.
The passengers claimed compensation from the defendant according to the regulation based on the cancellation of the alternative flight. The defendant argued that the regulation did not apply since the claimants never had a confirmed reservation for the alternative flight.
The Dusseldorf Local Court followed the defendant's argument and dismissed the claim. The court reasoned that, pursuant to Article 3(2)(a) of the regulation, the regulation will apply on the condition that passengers have a confirmed reservation on the flight. According to the court, the passengers had a confirmed reservation only for the original flight from Dusseldorf to Abu Dhabi with airline A, which was cancelled. They had booked and paid for only one particular way of transportation. The court stated that in case of cancellation or delay, compensation can be claimed only once and only with respect to the original booking. Even if the alternative flight is also cancelled, this does not double the right to compensation. Re-routing will not lead to an additional confirmed reservation for the alternative flight. The decision is final.
The decision is in line with an earlier decision of the Frankfurt Regional Court(2) and Dusseldorf Local Court. In its decision, the Frankfurt Regional Court additionally argued that the re-routing was free of charge and thus the regulation does not apply to the re-routed flight according to Article 3(3). In the earlier Dusseldorf Local Court decision in 2012,(3) the same result was reached but with slightly different reasoning. The court argued that an alternative flight is not a flight in the meaning of Article 5(1) and Article 7(1), as the regulation differentiates between a 'flight' as subject of the transportation contract and an 'alternative flight' as a measure of assistance set forth in Article 8. Consequently, the cancellation or delay of an alternative flight gives no right to compensation according to Article 7.
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For further information on this topic please contact Kathrin Lenz at Arnecke Sibeth Rechtsanwaelte by telephone (+49 69 97 98 85 0) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Arnecke Sibeth website can be accessed at www.arneckesibeth.com.