European Court of Justice: compensation for flight delay not conditional upon delay at departure

Mrs Folkerts held a reservation to fly from Bremen (Germany) to Asunción (Paraguay), via Paris (France) and São Paulo (Brazil). The departure of the flight from Bremen to Paris, operated by the company Air France, was delayed and the aircraft took off with a delay of approximately two and a half hours beyond the scheduled departure time. Consequently, Mrs Folkerts missed her connecting flight in Paris for São Paulo, also operated by Air France, which then rebooked her on to a later flight to the same destination. Because of her late arrival in São Paulo, Mrs Folkerts missed the original connecting flight to Asunción and arrived there 11 hours after the arrival time originally scheduled.The European Air Passenger Compensation Regulation 261/2004 generally grants passengers assistance during a delay to their flight. In its judgment in Sturgeon and Others, the Court of Justice held moreover that passengers whose flights are delayed may also be compensated, even though the regulation expressly grants a right to compensation only when flights are cancelled, provided that they reach their final destination three hours or more after the scheduled arrival time.Air France was ordered to pay Mrs Folkerts damages, including, in particular, a sum of € 600 under the regulation and brought an appeal on a point of law before the Bundesgerichtshof (German Federal Court of Justice) which filed a request for preliminary ruling to the European Court of Justice.In its judgement of Feb 26, 2013 in case C-11/11 (Folkerts v Air France), the ECJ held that in the case of directly connecting flights, the fixed compensation must be determined according to the delay beyond the scheduled time of arrival at the final destination, understood as the the destination of the last flight taken by the passenger concerned, because the opposite approach would constitute an unjustified difference in treatment, inasmuch as it would effectively treat passengers of flights arriving at their final destination three hours or more after the scheduled arrival time differently depending on whether their flights were delayed beyond the scheduled departure time by more than the limits set out in the regulation, even though their inconvenience linked to an irreversible loss of time is identical. The Court made clear in that regard that the fixed compensation to which a passenger is entitled under the regulation, when his flight reaches the final destination three hours or more after the scheduled arrival time, is not dependent on the conditions giving entitlement to the measures of assistance and care being met, those conditions being applicable where a flight is delayed at departure.Source: ECJ press release 18/13 of Feb. 26, 2013Full text of judgement available here>>.

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