European Court of Justice’s ruling
We all wish for a safe and timely arrival while flying. But it’s not always the case. Flight delays are a common problem faced by passengers that can ruin their trip and cause unnecessary hassles at the airport. There could be various reasons why planes get delayed. Bad weather, technical glitches and high air traffic are few reasons why flights often fail to meet schedules. But there’s one not-so-common reason behind flight delays – bird strikes.
While passengers have the right to claim for flight delay compensations, which reached a whopping £383 million in the UK in 2017, rules pertaining to such compensation due to bird strikes are undergoing a tremendous change in some European countries. A slew of passengers who expected a payout of €600 for bird strike-related flight delays have been denied the right to compensation.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) gave its verdict on flight delays, where it ruled that any collision taking place between a bird and an aircraft is an “extraordinary circumstance”. The ruling gives airlines the right to reject compensation claims from passengers who are stranded for three hours or more due to a bird strike-related flight delay.
The case of two Czech passengers
The issue of flight delay compensation for bird strike rose when two passengers travelling from Burgas, Bulgaria to Ostrava, Czech Republic through Brno. The plane was already delayed due to a technical glitch, and then was put further behind schedule after the plane was checked for a bird strike at Brno. The passengers claimed €250 each and believed the delay of more than three hours made them eligible for compensation under EU regulations.
The Czech Republic court passed the case to the EU Court of Justice to understand whether or not a collision with a bird would come under extraordinary circumstance. The court ruled that the event is an “extraordinary circumstance” and could not have been avoided by the carrier, thus releasing them of their obligation to compensate passengers for delays.
More often than not, bird strikes harm only the unfortunate bird that vies with aeroplanes for space. According to bird-strike statistics released by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), bird strikes are reported twice daily by UK airlines. Only one in twelve of such cases involve aircraft damages. The degree of damage caused to the aircraft depends greatly on the size of the creature. Gulls are the most common victims of collisions, second to which is swallow. About 715 cases of Hirundo rustica colliding against a Boeing or an Airbus have been recorded, but only three out of these cases involved damage to the aircraft.
What does the ruling mean for you?
The verdict of the European Court of Justice is certainly turning the tables for both passengers and airlines. Talking about passengers, the regulations will allow carriers to reject your compensation claims for bird strike-related delays. Perhaps the only way you can get compensated is by proving that the carrier could have taken steps that could have avoided the incident, but failed to take such actions. The court also passed a ruling that carriers are not responsible for the inability of airport entities, including managers and traffic controllers to prevent the bird strike.