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Indirect flights: Passengers can claim compensation even if the disrupted segment is operated by a non-European airline and outside of Europe


The European Court of Justice ruled on 11 July 2019 in the case CS and Others v. České aerolinie a.s. that passengers whose connecting flight, operated outside of Europe by a non-European air carrier, may claim compensation from the airline with which they concluded the contract of carriage if the flight was arranged under a code share by a European airline and under the same booking.

In other words, if you are delayed on arrival at your final destination due to a disruption on a segment outside European territory on a flight operated by a non-European airline with which you did not book your ticket, you may claim compensation from the airline with which you entered into the contract and which operated the first segment, provided that these flights have been booked together.

This solution ensures that the passengers will be compensated by the operating air carrier having concluded the contract of carriage with them, without having to take into account the arrangements made by that carrier for the second (and disrupted) connecting flight.

The dispute

The passengers in this dispute booked a flight from Prague (Czech Republic) to Bangkok (Thailand) via Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) with České Aerolinie.

The first segment of this trip, operated by České aerolinie and linking Prague to Abu Dhabi, arrived on time at its destination.

In contrast, the second flight, between Abu Dhabi and Bangkok, operated under a code-share agreement by Etihad Airways, which is not a "European air carrier", was delayed 488 minutes.

České Aerolinie, being the operating carrier, refused to pay the compensation provided for in EU Regulation 261 2004.

After a lengthy judicial process, the Městský soud v Praze (Prague Municipal Court) decided to stay the proceedings and ask the Court of Justice of the European Union for a preliminary ruling on whether a Community Carrier is required to compensate a passenger in the event of a disruption arising exclusively on a segment of flight occurring outside Europe by a non-European carrier, under a code share agreement with the European contractual carrier.

The Court answered in the affirmative.

Who is the actual carrier in a code share?

It should therefore be borne in mind that in the case of a connecting flight consisting of two flights which have given rise to a single reservation, the carrier with whom the passengers have concluded the contract will be liable for compensation.

However, the prerequisite for being able to take action against the carrier who concluded the contract and operated the first segment is that both segments belong to the same reservation.

Can you still take action against the carrier who made the second segment?

If this carrier is European or the second segment took place on European soil, you can. But the whole point of this judgment was to be able to hold the first carrier who concluded the contract liable when the disruption takes place outside Europe with a non-European carrier.

Beware of indirect flights purchased from a travel agency

When you book a ticket through a travel agency websites such as edreams or go voyages, you must be careful when the carriers are not the same on all segments of your trip because they will not always be required to compensate you if you miss your connection.

Despite sometimes significant price differences, booking on the airlines' websites offers the guarantee of guaranteed connections and recoverable compensation!

Subrogatory recourse of the actual carrier

The operating carrier will in any event be able under Article 13 of Regulation No 261/2004 to seek compensation from the airline which caused the breach.

Find the full decision here: http://curia.europa.eu/juris/liste.jsf?num=C-502/18

By Frédéric Pelouze

CEO Weclaim

26 August 2019

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