The European Union’s rules regarding flight delay compensation have been a godsend for passengers across the continent. According to the EU’s passenger compensation policy, any traveller who is flying within the EU, to the EU, or from the EU on an airline carrier registered in an EU nation is eligible to get compensated for any delay that occurs during departure or arrival.
However, in a landmark case heard in 2019, the European Union has now changed the EU aviation compensation policy completely. Now, according to the new EU policy, passengers can claim refunds for flight delays in other circumstances too.
The new rule
“A flight with one or more connections which is the subject of a single reservation constitutes a whole for the purposes of the right of passengers to compensation provided for in the regulation.”
– Court ruling
Passengers across Europe can now heave a sigh of relief as the new rule instituted by the European Union has made travel to and from the EU extremely convenient and pocket-friendly.
According to the new EU rule, passengers can now claim a refund not just on primary EU flights, but even on connecting flights that are run by non-EU airline service providers.
So what does this mean?
Let’s say a traveller book a flight on Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Sydney. Now, Lufthansa offers a connecting flight between Frankfurt and Sydney at Singapore Changi Airport on Singapore Airlines.
According to the old EU airline refund law, passengers who experienced any delay by Singapore Airlines could not claim compensation in the EU. If they needed to claim compensation, they would have to approach Singapore Airlines.
However, according to the new EU law, travellers from EU countries can now claim reimbursements for any delays they experience on Singapore Airlines, purely because it was the EU-based Lufthansa airline which provided the connecting flight.
So even if the Lufthansa flight to Singapore is on time, Lufthansa will have to bear the refund expense if the Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to Sydney is delayed as well.
The case that made this happen
With the new EU rule benefitting millions of travellers, a great debt is owed to the 11 passengers who made this change possible.
According to court reports, 11 European passengers had booked a flight from Prague to Bangkok, where the first leg of the journey was made on Czech Airlines. While Czech Airlines reached the connecting terminal – Abu Dhabi – on time, the connecting flight, Etihad Airways, was delayed by over 8 hours. When the affected passengers contested the old refund rule, the European Court of Justice ruled in their favour and directed Czech Airlines to compensate the travellers for the time lost, since they were the ones who sold them the tickets on Etihad Airways.
As per the new EU rule, travellers can claim up to €600 ($700) as a refund from their primary EU-based airline for delays above 3 hours on their connecting flights. But this isn’t completely bad news for airlines. The new rule does permit EU airline providers to sue their non-EU counterparts for damages due to delays.
According to industry experts, this move has become a massive gamechanger for the European aviation industry. With airlines now liable to foot the delays of connecting flights as well, experts hope that airlines will become more disciplined in operations and will provide passengers with the most reliable services.