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Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Saturday 10 August 2019

Flight Delay Claims:Beating Extraordinary Circumstances

'Go away and take your claim under the European Regulation No261/2004 for flight delay compensation with you. It was an extraordinary circumstance so you are stuffed.' That's what so may airlines will say when sending you packing. If they can prove the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances then they reckon they are off the hook. And they may be right.

See http://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/flight%20delay%20claims for a bit more on extraordinary circumstances.

But, as a decision just out of the European Court of Justice shows, they may be wrong! In Germanwings GmbH v Pauels (case C-501/17), it was a screw in one of the plane's tyres what did it which meant the tyre had to be changed. This caused a 3hour 28 minutes delay in the claimant's flight from Dublin to Dusseldorf. 

Events can be classified as extraordinary circumstances if, by their very nature or origin, they were not inherent in the normal exercise of the airline's activity and they were outside their actual control.  Where the delay resulted from impact with a screw on the runway that could amount to what the law regards as extraordinary circumstances.

So far, so good for the outline. But the European Court went on to declare that in the screw -tyre situation here, the airline would only escape liability if it could prove it had adopted measures appropriate to that situation. That would involve deploying all its resources in terms of staff and equipment and the financial means at its disposal to avoid the cancellation or long delay of the flight. It would not be expected, however, to make intolerable sacrifices in the light of its capacities. 

This was a preliminary ruling on the law and the claim must now go on and be determined in the Cologne Court where it started on the basis of what the European Court has ruled. What the ruling establishes is that the fact extraordinary circumstances can be proved by the airline does not mean the claim is over for the delayed passenger.