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Exemption of liability: in which cases are airlines not obliged to compensate you?


Strikes, bad weather, technical issues: In which cases is an airline not obliged to compensate you?

If the cancellation or delay of your flight is caused by extraordinary circumstances not inherent to the airline and which could not have been avoided by reasonable measures, the airline is not required to compensate you.

Common justifications used by airlines in the event of cancellations or delays

  • Internal strike: this circumstance does not constitute an exemption of liability. Indeed, if employees of an airline are on strike, the company is still obliged to pay compensation to its passengers. (See here)
  • External strike (such as an air traffic controllers' strike): this is an extraordinary circumstance. Airlines don't have to pay passengers compensation.
  • Bad weather conditions: only extreme weather conditions constitute an extraordinary circumstance (snow storm, extreme wind, volcanic eruption).
  • Technical issue: it is not an extraordinary circumstance, except in rare occasions.

Can you give me an example?

Mrs Van Der Lans was travelling from Ecuador to Amsterdam with KLM. The flight was delayed and took off 29 hours late. The delay was caused by a technical issue owing to defective pieces. These had to be conveyed from Amsterdam to Ecuador.

Mrs Van Der Lans brought the issue to the competent court in Amsterdam in order to get compensation. The matter went to the European Court of Justice (C-257/14), which held that such an event in the flight industry was an inherent risk and therefore not an extraordinary circumstance.

The claimant received compensation.

Who has to show that circumstances are extraordinary?

The burden of proof lies with the airline: the airline must demonstrate, with evidence, that the cancellation or the delay of your flight was caused by an extraordinary circumstance (Article 4, European Regulation 261/2004). Unfortunately, the airline rarely details the exact reasons for the cancellation or delay.

When you have not been given adequate information as to why your flight was delayed or cancelled, Weclaim can help you get this from the airline. Get in touch now; you can start a claim here!

30 April 2019

Written by Frédéric PELOUZE, Weclaim Founder & Director

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