European Court of Justice: court of place of departure or arrival compentent for compensation claims under Reg. 261/2004

In a judgement rendered today (Case C-204/08, Rehder v. Air Baltic), ECJ held that neither the location of the head office of the company operating the flight nor the place where the air transport contract was entered into is conclusive with regard to the choice of the court having jurisdiction in regard to claims for flat-rate compensation under Reg. (EC) 261/2004.The place of the head office or the principal place of establishment of the airline concerned does not have the necessary close link to the contract. The operations and activities undertaken from that place, such as, in particular, the provision of an adequate aircraft and crew, are logistical and preparatory measures for the purpose of performing the contract relating to air transport and are not services the provision of which is linked to the actual content of the contract. The same is true with regard to the place where the contract for air transport is concluded and the place where the ticket is issued.The only places which have a direct link to those services, provided in performance of obligations linked to the subject-matter of the contract, are those of the departure and arrival of the aircraft, the ‘places of departure and arrival’ having to be understood as those agreed in the contract of carriage in question, made with one sole airline which is the operating carrier.Each of those two places has a sufficiently close link of proximity to the material elements of the dispute and, accordingly, ensures the close connection between the contract and the court having jurisdiction. Consequently, a claim for compensation following the cancellation of a flight may be brought, as a matter of choice on the part of the passenger concerned, before the court having territorial jurisdiction over the place of departure or of arrival.Source: ECJ press release No 62/09;Full text of judgement avialable here>>.

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