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ECJ ruling: Can a lack of staff at airports justify delays?

ECJ ruling: Can a lack of staff at airports justify delays?

Too few staff to load luggage and the flight is delayed for over three hours – that’s not what passengers from Germany wanted to accept. Now the ECJ has made a ruling.

If a flight is delayed due to a lack of staff loading luggage, passengers are not necessarily entitled to claim compensation. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg ruled that too few staff could be an exceptional circumstance that might justify a delay.

The background is a case from Germany. A flight from Cologne-Bonn to the Greek island of Kos was delayed by three hours and 49 minutes. This delay was due to several reasons, but mainly due to a lack of personnel for baggage loading in Cologne-Bonn.

Several passengers then assigned their claims for compensation to Flightright. The company sued the airline TAS, claiming that it was responsible for the delay and that this could not be justified by exceptional circumstances.

Shortage of airport staff is an exceptional circumstance

Under EU law, an airline does not have to pay compensation for delays of more than three hours if it can prove that the delay was due to “extraordinary circumstances”.

The German court therefore asked the ECJ whether a lack of airport staff could be such an exceptional circumstance and whether the airline would therefore not have to pay compensation. Yes, the judges in Luxembourg have now decided: If the airport does not have enough staff to load luggage, it can be an “extraordinary circumstance”.

According to the judges at Europe’s highest court, such a circumstance exists if, firstly, the event is not part of the airline’s normal activities and, secondly, it cannot be controlled by it.

The regional court in Cologne must now decide whether that was the case in this specific case. However, the ECJ set limits: TAS must, among other things, prove that the staff shortage could not be avoided and that measures were taken to prevent a flight delay.

Source: Stern

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