On 13 February 2020, the Court of Justice held its judgment in Case C-606/19, flightright GmbH v Iberia LAE SA Operadora Unipersonal, on the interpretation of Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012. The request has been made in proceedings between flightright GmbH (“flightright”), a company established in Potsdam (Germany), and Iberia LAE SA Operadora Unipersonal(“Iberia”), an airline established in Madrid (Spain), concerning a claim for compensation on the basis of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004.
In 2018, two passengers booked a journey from Hamburg (Germany) to San Sebastian (Spain) with connecting flights under a confirmed single booking. The journey comprised three connecting flights: i) from Hamburg to London, operated by British Airways; ii) from London to Madrid, operated by Iberia; and iii) from Madrid to San Sebastian, operated by Iberia as well. Whilst there were no incidents on the first two legs of the journey, the third one was cancelled without the passengers being informed in due time. Because of that cancellation, flightright, to which the passengers had assigned any right to compensation, lodged before the Amtsgericht Hamburg (Local Court of Hamburg; the “referring court”) a claim for compensation in the amount of EUR 500 (250 per passenger) against Iberia.
Having doubts about the jurisdiction over the dispute in respect of the leg of the journey that was cancelled, the referring court stayed the proceeding and asked the Court of Justice whether the second indent of Article 7(1)(b) of Regulation No 1215/2012 must be interpreted as meaning that the “place of performance”, according to that provision, in respect of a flight consisting of a confirmed single booking for the entire journey and divided into several legs, can be the place of departure of the first leg of the journey, where transport on those legs of the journey is performed by two separate air carriers and the claim for compensation brought on the basis of Regulation No 261/2004 arises from the cancellation of the final leg of the journey and is brought against the air carrier in charge of that last leg.
According to the Court, in situations in which a journey with connecting flights consists of a confirmed single booking for the entire journey and comprises several legs, the place of performance, within the meaning of the second indent of Article 7(1)(b) of Regulation No 1215/2012, can be the place of departure of the first leg of the journey, as one of the principal places of provision of the services which are the subject of a contract for carriage by air. This criterion indeed, given that that place has a sufficiently close link with the material elements of the dispute, satisfies the objective of proximity between the contract for carriage by air and the competent court or tribunal underlying those rules. Moreover, it fulfils the principle of predictability, in so far as it allows both the applicant and the defendant to identify the court or tribunal for the place of departure of the first leg of the journey as the court or tribunal before which actions may be brought.
Finally, with regard to the possibility to sue the air carrier in charge of the final leg of the journey before the court or tribunal which has territorial jurisdiction over the place of departure of the first leg of the journey, the Court stated that such air carrier, having no contract with the passenger, is to be regarded as acting on behalf of the person having a contract with that passenger.