The Court of Justice of the European Union this
week upheld an earlier ruling that passengers whose flights are delayed by
three hours or more are entitled to the same compensation as those whose
flights are canceled. An EU regulation from 2004, commonly known as EC 261,
dictates that such passengers are entitled to compensation of €250 to €600
depending on the length of the journey, unless the three-hour-plus delay or
cancellation is caused by such extraordinary circumstances as extreme weather.
Deeply unpopular with airlines since its
introduction, there have been numerous attempts by carriers to wriggle around
their compensation obligations, which led to requests in 2010 for further
clarification from the Local Court in Cologne and the High Court of Justice for
England and Wales. The latest clarification and upholding of a previous ruling
in 2009 confirms that EC 261 fulfills various principles of EU law, including
equal treatment, legal certainty and proportionality, and that it is compatible
with the global Montreal Convention, which governs aviation.
In addition, the Court ruled there should be no
temporal restriction on its decision, paving the way for retrospective claims
from air passengers.