CJEU: a flight during which an unscheduled stopover took place cannot be regarded as cancelled

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

On Oct. 5, 2016 the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) provided another clarification regarding the interpretation of Reg. (EC) No. 261/2004. The case involved an Bulgarian Air Charter flight from Burgas (Bulgaria) to Dresden (Germany). The flight departed as scheduled but made an unscheduled stopover in Prague which caused a delay in arrvial at Dresden of  2 hours and 20 minutes. Some German courts had held that a deviation by the aircraft from the original itinerary and the inclusion of an unscheduled stopover represented such a significant modification to the original itinerary that the scheduled flight must be regarded as not having been operated.

The CJEU pointed out that the mere fact of an unscheduled stopover is not at all a situation involving in itself, for the passengers, serious trouble or inconvenience such as that arising from a denied boarding, a cancellation or a lengthy delay, compensation for which is provided for by Regulation No 261/2004. Such serious trouble and inconvenience would only arise if the stopover means that the aircraft making the flight at issue reaches its final destination with a delay equal to or in excess of three hours compared with the scheduled time of arrival.Iif a flight that arrives at its planned final destination after an unscheduled stopover with a delay of less than three hours were equated to a cancellation that would be contrary to the principal of equal treatment.

As a result, the court held that

Article 2(l) 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 a flight in respect of which the places of departure and arrival accorded with the planned schedule but during which an unscheduled stopover took place cannot be regarded as cancelled.

CJEU Oct. 5, 2016, C-32/16 - Wunderlich/Bulgarian Air Charter

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