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The ECJ rules in favor of passengers delayed by an internal strike


European Judges ruled in favor of passengers whose flights were disrupted by internal strikes. A ruling that means millions of euros that passengers can claim for old disrupted flights. The case relates to whether flight delays and cancellations caused by sudden strikes by air carrier staff, known as ‘wildcat strikes’,are claimable under EU Regulation 261/2004.

In short, the answer is yes: the European Court of Justice has decided on April 17, 2018 that flight delays and cancellations caused by sudden ‘wildcat’ strikes (a strike which isn't officially organised by a trade union) **are claimable under EU 261 following a case involving Tui’s German airline.

In this case, Helga Krüsemann and other passengers all made bookings with TUIfly for flights to be operated by TUIfly between 3 and 8 October 2016. All those flights were disrupted (cancelled or significantly delayed) due to an exceptionally high number of absences on grounds of illness amongst TUIfly staff, following the notification on 30 September 2016 by that air carrier’s management to its staff of company restructuring plans.

Accordingly, from 3 October 2016, TUIfly fully abandoned its initial schedule of flights, while making sub-chartering arrangements with rival air carriers and recalling staff members who were on leave. However, because of the absences among its staff, flights were cancelled or significantly delayed on the 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 of October 2016. In view of that situation which TUIfly classified as ‘extraordinary circumstances’ within the meaning of Article 5(3) of Regulation No 261/2004, TUIfly refused to pay the compensation provided for in Article 5(1)(c)(iii) and Article 7 of Regulation No 261/2004.

"Wildcat strikes are not "extraordinary circumstances"

The Court has ruled that the spontaneous absence of a significant part of the flight crew staff (‘wildcat strikes’), which stems from the surprise announcement by an operating air carrier of a restructuring of the undertaking, following a call echoed not by the staff representatives of the company but spontaneously by the workers themselves who placed themselves on sick leave, is not covered by the concept of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ within the meaning of that provision.

The Court of Justice said: "The wildcat strike at issue in the main proceedings cannot be regarded as beyond the actual control of the air carrier concerned. "Apart from the fact that the wildcat strike stems from a decision taken by the air carrier, it should be noted that, despite the high rate of absenteeism mentioned by the referring court, that wildcat strike ceased following an agreement that it concluded with the staff representatives."

"Therefore, such a strike cannot be classified as an 'extraordinary circumstance'."

This ruling means that european judges believe that airlines are responsible to ensure they have contingencies in place to guarantee their passengers will arrive on time.

Find the full decision here

Is the ECJ TuiFly ruling binding all over Europe?

Yes. The ECJ decision that sudden strikes by airline staff should not be classed as extraordinary circumstances is legally binding throughout Europe and will hold precedent in UK cases.

The April 17, 2018 TuiFly ECJ ruling is worth millions of compensation to passengers

The ruling in Luxembourg, which will apply throughout the EU, including the UK, will lead to airlines paying out tens of millions more compensation a year to delayed passengers. If you are one of the 60,000 passengers that were delayed in July 2017 due to the British Airways cabin crew 16-day strike, which was then extended for a further two weeks into August 201, you are owed money and it’s not too late to claim compensation.

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