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New EU261 ruling on connections means you could be due compensation

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The rules around EU261 / EC261 compensation for delayed, cancelled or downgraded flights continue to evolve as case law sets new precedents on what is and is not included.

The Court of Appeal has now issued a binding judgement – subject to any final appeal by Emirates – on how compensation must be paid if your connecting flight is delayed.

If you have been denied compensation for a flight delay caused by a missed connection at any point in the last six years, you should now be revisiting your claim.  You may be due up to €600.

The Court of Appeal verdict clarifies the position when:

you are flying FROM an EU airport (inbound flights do not count)

and connecting to a second flight at a non-EU airport

The most common scenario here would be someone travelling on Emirates, Etihad or Qatar Airways who is required to change planes in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha.

The CAA summary of the verdict is here.  The full version, if you want to plough through it, is here.

Here is my summary of the summary.

The case actually involved two separate flights and two different groups of passengers, which the Court of Appeal chose to hear as one case.

Case 1 involved a woman who flew to Bangkok on Emirates.  Her flight from Manchester to Dubai landed 3 hours late.  She missed her connection to Bangkok and eventually arrived 13 hours late.   Emirates offered €300 compensation based on a 3 hour delay, instead of the higher €600 due for a 4+ hour delay.

Case 2 involved a family flying to Sydney on Emirates.  Their flight from Manchester to Dubai landed 2 hours late.  They missed their connection to Sydney and eventually arrived 16 hours late.  Emirates offered no compensation, on the basis that a 2-hour delay does not qualify.

The Court of Appeal decided that Emirates was wrong to refuse to pay €600 compensation even though the second flights were between two countries outside the EU and were operated by a non-EU airline.

Emirates still has an option of appealing so this may not be the end of the matter, although the decision seems clear cut.  For clarity, your flight needs to be on one ticket for compensation to kick in.  You would not be due anything if you missed a connection on a separate ticket.

Because you have six years to claim EU261 compensation, you may now find that you can successfully claim for a delayed connecting flight as long ago as 2011 even if your previous claim was rejected.

What is not clear, interestingly, is whether this judgement applies in reverse.  If your flight from London to Dubai is 3 hours late but you still make your connecting flight, and arrive at your final destination on time (or less than 3 hours late) can the airline now refuse to compensate you for the original delay?  Logically they probably can, although you could then argue that it is unfair to pay people whose trips ended in Dubai compared to those travelling onwards ….

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Comments

  1. IMO claiming for a delayed flight when you arrive at your final destination on time does feel a bit petty. Good news for those who miss their connections though!

    • Depends if you planned your journey for a couple of hours stopover to get a good rest/shower and chance to stretch your legs to avoid DVT for a long haul epic to Oz.

      • unless you are at an already high (not just increased) risk of DVT then a 14h flight to Oz isnt going to give you a DVT.

        and if youre worried just walk up the aisle a few times

    • the real harry1 says:

      the law is the law

      eg your LH flight gets cancelled/ you are bumped off it because of an airline’s deliberate policy of over-booking

      they put you on the next flight an hour later – btw it’s an inferior plane – and you arrive within 1 hour of your original time – you are entitled to 50% of EUR600

      • TRH – V true

        Shame Rob isn’t interested in making his claim for his experience on Virgin, would make a decent article.

        • Virgin claims their system would have triggered an email. I never got it. I would need to prove my ISP had not deleted it as spam before it reached my inbox. Tricky.

        • Rob – IMHO it’s Virgin that need to prove the email was sent.

          Still worth putting in the claim.

        • Hi Rob,
          I thought Article 5, point 4 of EC261 has burden of proof with the airline?
          “The burden of proof concerning the questions as to whether and when the passenger has been informed of the cancellation of the flight shall rest with the operating air carrier.”

  2. Optimus Prime says:

    I assume this is only valid if all connections are on the same ticket? – i.e. typical scenario when HfP readers head off to EU to board a Qatar flight.

    • “For clarity, your flight needs to be on one ticket for compensation to kick in. You would not be due anything if you missed a connection on a separate ticket.”

      So as long as its one ticket and you start in an EU country you’re good.

      • For the return leg to the EU it needs to be an airline based in the EU, eg delayed returning to Amsterdam, KLM you’re covered, Malaysia Airlines you’re not.

      • ex-Iceland, Norway and Switzerland also count.

    • Frankie says:

      The answer to your question is in the article.

    • Yes

    • Optimus Prime says:

      Thanks, was still half sleep and didn’t realise the article points that out 🙁

  3. Sam Wardill says:

    I’d like to see a test case on strikes or, as no-one has brought a test case, can we all just agree that planned airline crew strikes are not an extraordinary circumstance that could not have been avoided had all reasonable measures been avoided?

    I’m with Lou on final destinations. I think that, as passengers, we have to be a bit reasonable. Otherwise how can we ever expect airlines to play ball.

    • the real harry1 says:

      I guess you saw the CAA guidance that advised internal strikes are not extraordinary whereas external strikes are?

      • Mr(s) Entitled says:

        Presumably because this is a matter of law their guidance is non-binding? I dont envisage any airlines paying out for anything that they are not compelled to.

        • the real harry1 says:

          it needs testing – however, you would stand a good chance of starting legal action (MCOL) against an airline and have them capitulate before the case goes before the court, since they would not want to lose & set a precedent

        • Mr(s) Entitled says:

          I’d like to but my experience of such is limited to Lufthansa on a return flight. Ticket was bought in the UK so could I pursue that here to enable me to make use of the CAA?

        • the_real_a says:

          A colleague of mine had a similar point of principle with the Nationwide Building Society. He won the case and along with his settlement cheque was the note that all of his accounts would be closed as the Nationwide no longer wanted to do business with him.

  4. It’s also worth noting that compensation is due for delays for any flights that originate in Europe no matter the destination, but for flights that originate *outside* Europe and end in Europe, if the airline isn’t a European airline, then no compensation is due.

  5. Could be a very dangerous ruling for US airlines. The amount of 3 hour delays I’ve accumulated over the past few years due to missed connections from longer than usual immigration queues has been quite numerous. Would compensation be due in these cases, or is CBP outside of the airlines control? (even if minimum connection time isn’t)

  6. Following on behind says:

    I think the law should be changed to recognise fully the arrival time at the ultimate destination as presumably that is where you want to get to to do some thing.

    I arrived London to Doha on time and left Doha 4 hours late arriving Ho Chi Minh 4 hours late. Qatar argued no compensation as delay was on the second leg. They are probably applying the law correctly but seems silly to me to discriminate between my situation and someone who had a delay on the first leg who gets the same outcome!

    • the real harry1 says:

      same PNR? that’s what the articl;e is about…

      • Genghis says:

        Is it? In both the examples it was the first leg that was delayed which caused a missed connection and a delay on arrival at final destination. Having an on time leg 1 followed by a delayed leg 2 (not on EU airline and not departing EU) is different even though the end result is the same

    • You can now (re)claim for that as long as it was less than 6 years ago and all on one ticket.

      • Genghis says:

        You sure? That’s not what the ruling says, “The ruling means passengers of non-EU airlines, who had experienced a delay on the first leg of a flight, which caused them to miss a connecting flight and, as a result, arrived at their final destination at least three hours late can claim compensation of up to €600 euros whether the final destination is within or outside the EU”.

        • Following on behind says:

          There’s only 6 months on the clock so far. I live in hope that within 5.5 years someone will see sense and I can nail them for it. Was visiting my partner briefly who was working overseas so arriving at her hotel at 1am vs 9pm meant I lost an evening with her. Worth €600 in my opinion!

    • Some people have things to do at their transit point.

      I flew WAW-CPH-LHR with a 4 hour stopover in CPH, I needed to go somewhere in Copenhagen but the first flight was delayed by 3 hours, so I couldn’t go.

      I paid more to fly this route, a direct flight WAW-LHR would have cost less. Fortunately, SAS did pay the compensation which was enough to buy another ticket to CPH.

  7. They already do refuse on that last scenario, Rob. For those of us with domestic connections I’ve had more than one occasion where the connection is hours late but eventual arrival is still under compensation limits. If only going to LHR I’d have been compensated, but I lose out as I have an onwards connection. Sadly it doesn’t look like this judgement helps in that scenario.

  8. Does weather count as extraordinary events? I flew Emirates from LHR to JNB via Dubai.Our plane was late arriving in London as there was storms in Dubai and subsequently late taking off from London. We arrived an hour or late in Dubai missing the onwards connection and ended up waiting 8/9 hours for the next flight. Emirates said there was nothing to pay as the weather leaving Dubai was outside their control??

    • Yes, it was extraordinary, Emirates can’t control storms!

      Sometimes weather may not be extraordinary, for example, you might have a case against an airline unprepared for snow in Finland in February when every other airline was prepared and there was no extraordinary blizzard

      • Understand they can’t control storms but surely they can’t claim storms as a problem 2/3 flights down the line? The flight from Dubai to London proceeding mine is understandably out of their, but the weather was fine in London when we left and fine in DXB when we landed. The airline had basically not left enough time to turnaround the plane at LHR. If they can claim the effect of Storm from the previous flight, how many time could they claim the knock on effect was out of their control?

        • Klaus-Peter Dudas says:

          I am not sure on this one, but if the plane came from elsewhere (more common on EasyJet / RyanAir / etc) and there is bad weather on that route then that definitely is not our of their control (e.g. the plane flies BCN – SXF – LTN, bad weather in BCN delays the plane but SXF – LTN has good weather – compensation is due)

    • Tom, I just received compensation for the above situation. There is case law highlighting that where the incoming plane is delayed, it should be expected that the airline has a backup plane on standby. So less so a delay due to weather but rather poor planning by the airline.

      I imagine this would be largely applicable when flying from larger hubs rather than remote destinations where the avilablitybof a spare plane might be rather onerous.

      • Airlines can be liable if it can ‘reasonably’ be expected that they have an extra aircraft available. Despite the number of flights they have there, Emirates is NOT based in London, and does not have a reason to store aircraft there. Therefore the return leg of a flight affected by weather would still be ruled ‘exceptional’. Future legs operated by that aircraft (e.g. if it then turns and ops to Paris) would be, as it might be expected they’d be able to source a spare aircraft in their home hub of DXB. Hope that makes sense.

        Remember that the law is designed to ensure airlines behave in a good manner towards their customers wrt delays. ‘Fining’ them because of a storm when there is nothing they could feasibly do would be unfair.

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  10. Maurice says:

    Would this apply to flights from UK to US with a connection in the US where the inbound flight was delayed and thus connection missed?
    Thanks

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