According to a new court ruling, it will now be possible for passengers to claim compensation for delays and cancellations caused by wildcat strikes. “Wildcat” strikes are sudden strikes organized by workers without authorization or permission from union leaders.
The new rule was passed by judges last month at the European Court of justice. The move is being seen as a major victory for passengers, who will now be eligible for millions of pounds in compensation every year.
A Welcome Move
Up until now, compensation claims involving wildcat strikes have been denied by carriers on the grounds that they are “events beyond the control of the airline”. For instance, last year, the cabin crew for British Airways organized a 16-day strike, which resulted in several cancellations and delays. Around 60,000 passengers were affected.
According to one law firm, these strikes alone would have seen 25 million pounds going out as compensation. Coby Benson, a solicitor from the same firm, mentioned that airlines have always categorized wildcat strikes as an extraordinary circumstance.
But, now, he adds, with the new judgment from the European Court, it has become clear that airlines are obliged to provide passengers with compensation. Wildcat strikes have been known to cause significant problems for passengers with regard to their travel schedules.
The case, which was debated over at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, looked at whether or not sudden strikes and other disruptive actions by airline staff were subject to the EU-Regulation 261, which deals with flight delay compensation. The verdict was provided as part of the German case involving Helga Krüsemann and others versus TUIfly.
The case examined delays from last year that were caused as the result of airline staff going on leave during a restructuring process. The absence rates for ground staff at this time had gone up to 89% from 10.%. For cabin crew, it was estimated to be 62%. Sickness was the most common reason cited for the absence.
As a result, there were several flight interruptions. Majority of the flights being delayed or canceled were operated by TUIfly. All of the cancellations and delays met the 3-hour condition.
The case was presented to the local courts in Germany, who later forwarded the matter to the Court of Justice. The Court of Justice was tasked with determining whether or not such sudden absences/wildcat strikes would qualify as extraordinary circumstances.
Eventually, the court came to an agreement that such events could not be categorized as extraordinary circumstances. Instead, they are more likely to be the result of gross mismanagement. This led to the ruling that wildcat strikes could no longer be immune to the EU flight delay regulations.
Up until now, extraordinary circumstance or scenarios beyond the control of the airline were immune to the compensation rules. The rules were applicable only to delays and cancellations that were directly caused by the airlines.
The new rule sets an interesting precedent for what might constitute as an extraordinary circumstance in the future.