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Flight delay: European Court of Justice says arrival corresponds to the time at which at least one of the doors of the aircraft is opened


In the event of a flight delay, one of the most important things to consider is the actual length of the delay. In order to determine whether you are eligible for a compensation, you need to be careful when determining the relevant time of arrival of your flight.

In Germanwings GmbH v Ronny Henning dated 4 September 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled on the matter.

Time of arrival is when the door is opened

The European judges ruled in Germanwings GmbH v Ronny Henning that the relevant time of arrival to consider in order to calculate the delay of a flight 'corresponds to the time at which at least one of the doors of the aircraft is opened, the assumption being that, at that moment, the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft.'

The court explained the ruling by saying:

'It is only when the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft and the order is given to that effect to open the doors of the aircraft that the passengers may in principle resume their normal activities without being subject to those constraints' (§24).

The Court concluded that 'The concept of ‘arrival time’, which is used to determine the length of the delay to which passengers on a flight have been subject, refers to the time at which at least one of the doors of the aircraft is opened, the assumption being that, at that moment, the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft' (§25).

Note! According to European Court of Justice law, it is prohibited for an airline to amend the meaning of "arrival time" by inserting in its Terms & Conditions, a term that specifies that "arrival time" is the time the place touches the ground.

You can read the entire decision here

by Frédéric PELOUZE, Weclaim Founder & Director

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