Airlines must pay flight delay compensation if mobile boarding stairs collide with aircraft and cause hold ups – says the European Court of Justice

ECJ quick decision may indicate that the court no longer wishes to hear questions regarding EU Regulation 261/2004

The current law and jurisprudence on flight delay compensation is clear

The European Court of Justice has announced that mobile boarding stairs which collide with aircraft causing damage and delay does not constitute extraordinary circumstances.

The Court stated that mobile stairs or gangways are indispensable to air passenger transport (to enable passengers to enter or leave the aircraft) and air carriers are regularly faced with situations arising from the use of such equipment. Thus a collision of this type must be regarded as an event inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of an air carrier and compensation will be due if a flight is delayed for more than three hours. 

The ruling was triggered by the case of Sandy Siewert and Others v Condor Flugdienst.

The group suffered a six hour delay on a flight from Antalya (Turkey) to Frankfurt (Germany) with the airline, Condor.  The air carrier argued that the delay was caused when a set of mobile boarding stairs had collided with the aircraft causing damage to the wing the evening before at Stuttgart Airport which meant that the aircraft had to be replaced. The airline said that this was an extraordinary circumstances and thus it would not pay passengers compensation for their delayed flight.

The court hearing the case – the Amtsgericht Rüsselsheim (Local Court, Rüsselsheim, Germany) –  asked the Court of Justice whether a situation where a set of mobile boarding stairs collides with an aircraft can be categorised as ‘extraordinary circumstances’ of such a kind as to relieve the air carrier of its liability to pay compensation.  In its Order 2 of 14 November 2014, the Court noted that technical problems may be regarded as ‘extraordinary circumstances’, provided that they stem from an event which, owing to its nature or origin, is not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier and is beyond its actual control.

“On average a case will take a year and half to two years before a decision is reached. This case was filed with the ECJ in August of this year, and the court came to an immediate decision.” Said Adeline Noorderhaven,  UK manager, EUclaim  “We believe that this speedy response maybe an indication that the ECJ has decided that they do not want more questions regarding EU Reg 261/2004 because the current law and jurisprudence is so clear”.

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