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When you miss more than your flight: recent European Court of Justice case rules that affected passengers can claim for missed work

The recent case of Rusu & Anor v SC Blue Air (Case C-354/18) confirmed that there are no barriers under EU261/2004 to claim for missed days at work .

The dispute

The applicants booked tickets from SC Blue Air departing 6 September 2016 from Romania to London, where the they worked. On arrival at the airport they were informed that they had been bumped from their flight as a result of the airline downsizing the plane and no longer having capacity to seat them. The applicants were rebooked 5 whole days later, to depart 11 September.

Rejecting an offer for free tickets to use within 6 months, the Applicants instead demanded monetary damages - including a combined 823 euros, being the the total of deducted wages for 5 days of missed work.

Blue Air rejected the claim in excess of 400 euros each, arguing that they were only entitled to the fixed compensation provided for by the European Regulation 261/2004.

The battle

On appeal by both parties, the matter was referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the question of whether:

  • the fixed compensation under the EU261/2004 was intended to cover all damages, such as lost wages;
  • If the answer is no, can any additional amount be deducted from the fixed compensation?

The winner

The ECJ held that the winner can be the worker:

  • the fixed compensation element applies universally to all affected passengers and; a loss of salary, being an individual loss thus does not fall within the fixed compensation prescribed.
  • whether or not additional damages (contemplated by Article 12 of the EU261/2004) such as lost wages will be permitted and if so, deducted from the fixed compensation will depend:
  • on the individual’s circumstances, and
  • the national laws in where compensation is being sought.

Therefore, there is nothing in the text of the EU261/2004 which prohibits a passenger from claiming additional compensation such as lost wages, by way of means afforded by Article 12.

The settled dust

This EJC ruling clarifies the characterisation of the EU261/2004 fixed compensation regime, in that the statutory damage is stand-alone and that nothing in the text prohibits an affected passenger’s entitlement to seek additional and other types of damages specific to their loss.

The decision provides clarity for passengers to claim consequential losses like lost accommodation and car bookings, provided the national laws in which they seek recompense allows for it.

If your claim for additional losses has been rejected by an airline, contact us to see if we can assist further.

Frédéric Pelouze

9 August 2019

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