Harried airline passengers might start rooting to get stuck on the tarmac for a few more minutes after European Union judges ruled that the clock for compensation for delayed EU flights doesn’t stop ticking until the plane reaches the gate.
While EU law allows payouts of 250 euros ($326) or more for flights delayed longer than three hours, the bloc’s top court ruled Thursday that what matters is when cabin crew finally unlock the doors and allow passengers off the plane — and not when it hits the runway.
“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 are able to get on with their lives, the court said in a case involving Germanwings, the low-cost subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa AG.
Thursday’s case adds to a series of court rulings clarifying EU laws that require airlines to pay compensation for delays. The EU court previously ruled that passengers should get compensation for delays of more than three hours unless there are “extraordinary” circumstances, such as a strike, bad weather or a volcanic eruption.
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Germanwings said the ruling “clarifies an ambiguity that had plagued the interpretation of applicable travel law for a long time.” It said “legal certainty has now been established for everyone.”
The EU court rules on points of law and Austrian courts must decide the details of this case.
The case is C-452/13 Germanwings v Ronny Henning.