On 31 May 2018 the Court of Justice of the European Union held its judgment in case C-537/17, C. W. v. Royal Air Maroc SA. The request for a preliminary ruling has been made in the context of proceedings in front of the Landgericht Berlin(Regional Court, Berlin, Germany) between Ms C. W. and Royal Air Maroc,following the airline’s refusal to compensate her, in accordance with Regulation No 261/2004, establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, for the four hours delay with which she arrived to Agadir with respect to the scheduled time of arrival.

Ms C. W. bought a flight with Royal Air Maroc from Berlin to Agadir (Morocco), with a stopover and change of aircraft in Casablanca (Morocco). After boarding the Royal Air Marocaircraft destined for Casablanca, which departed late, she was not allowed to board the aircraft destined to Agadir since her seat had been reassigned to another passenger. Ms C.W. eventually boarded another Royal Air Marocaircraft and arrived in Agadir four hours after the scheduled time of arrival.

With its preliminary question, the German Court asked, in essence, whether Article 3(1)(a) of Regulation No 261/2004 must be interpreted as meaning that the regulation applies to passenger transport effected under a single booking and comprising, between its departure from an airport situated in the territory of a Member State and its arrival at an airport situated in the territory of a third State, a scheduled stopover outside the European Union, with a change of aircraft.

The Court of Justice noted that the concept of “final destination” is defined in Article 2(h) of the regulation, as the destination on the ticket presented at the check-in counter or, in the case of directly connecting flights, the destination of the last flight taken by the passenger concerned. It follows from the term “last flight” that the concept of “connecting flight” must be understood as referring to two or more flights constituting a whole for the purposes of the right to compensation for passengers provided for in Regulation No 261/2004. That is the case when two or more flights were booked as a single unit. Moreover, the Court pointed out that none of the provisions of Regulation No 261/2004 renders the classification as connecting flight subject to the condition that all of the flights included were effected aboard the same aircraft. On those grounds, the Court ruled that:

“Article 3(1)(a) of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91, must be interpreted as meaning that the regulation applies to a passenger transport effected under a single booking and comprising, between its departure from an airport situated in the territory of a Member State and its arrival at an airport situated in the territory of a third State, a scheduled stopover outside the European Union with a change of aircraft”.