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The European Court of Justice puts airline on straight path to reroute its passengers

The recent case of Rusu & Anor v SC Blue Air (Case C-354/18) confirmed that the obligations of airlines to inform passengers of their legal rights is absolute and extends to airlines’ obligations to provide passengers with all available information and options to enable them to make rerouting choices.

Disaster rerouting

The applicants booked tickets from SC Blue Air departing 6 September 2016 from Romania to London, where the they worked. They were bumped from their flight and consequently owed rerouting from the airline. The applicants were rebooked an astonishingly long 5 whole days later, to depart 11 September.

The significant delay to their final destination caused the applicants significant damage, primarily being loss of wages (discussed here in this blog). As a result of missing work, one of the applicants was subject to disciplinary action.

The airline, SC Blue Air, argued that the 11 September flight was accepted by the applicants, without them prior expressing a request for an earlier flight with a different airline. The airline said that had an alternative flight and air carrier been requested, it would have sought one.

Is it the passenger’s responsibility to help himself?

Not at all.

The starting position is that an airline is obliged to provide passengers who have been bumped with full information of their rights ‘so that they can effectively exercise their rights.’

This premise, together with the strong consumer focused principles underpinning the EU261/2004 provided the basis for the Court to clarify an airline’s obligation to: - provide, as soon as possible, the passenger with full data information necessary for the passenger to make their choice between rerouting and cancellation.

The Court was careful to note that in no way, is the passenger obligated to contribute to the search for such alternative flights.

Finally, the onus is on the airline to show that it performed this obligation and did so as soon as possible.

In the applicants’ case, the failure in communication and resulting significant delay exposed them to greater harm and damage, primarily being deduction of wages. This damage could be attributed to the airline’s great lapse in providing the applicants with proper rerouting assistance.

Straightening the process for rerouting passengers

This case clarifies that this obligation to provide full rerouting information under the EU261/2004 must be actively exercised and straightforward for the passenger.

Weclaim routinely claims additional damages relating to airline’s failure to fulfil its obligations. Weclaim are market leaders in this respect. Contact us today to see if we can help you, too.

Frédéric Pelouze

26 August 2019

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