ECJ clarifies time limit for court actions under EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation

The “EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation” (Reg, [EC] 261/2004) affords air passengers a right to compensation according to the distance and destination of their cancelled flight, unless the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances. However, it does not specify any time-limit for bringing actions for compensation.Mr Cuadrench Moré purchased a ticket from the airline KLM for a flight from Shanghai to Barcelona scheduled for 20 December 2005. Since that flight was cancelled, he was forced to travel the following day with another airline, via Munich. More than three years later he brought an action before the Spanish Courts against KLM claiming EUR 2,990 together with interest and costs, by way of compensation for the damage sustained as a result of the cancellation of his flight. KLM contended that the action was time-barred, on the ground that the two-year period specified in the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions within which actions for damages against air carriers must be brought had expired.The Spanish court (Audiencia Provincial de Barcelona) filed a reference for preliminary ruling to the Court of Justice of the European Union.In its judgement of Nov. 22, 2012, the ECJ held that in the absence of provisions of EU law on the matter, it is for the domestic legal system of each Member State to lay down the detailed procedural rules governing actions for safeguarding rights which individuals derive from EU law. The time-limits for bringing actions for compensation for flight cancellation under European Union law are determined in accordance with the rules of each Member State on the limitation of actions. However, those procedural rules must observe the principles of effectiveness and equivalence in relation to the procedural rules laid down by national law in respect of similar situations.As the compensation measure laid down by Regulation No 261/2004 falls outside the scope of the Warsaw and the Montreal Convention, the time limit specified in these convention does not apply.Source: ECJ press release 150/12 of Nov. 22,2012Full text of judgment in case C-139/11 (Joan Cuadrench Moré v KLM) available here>>.

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