Over three years ago, several airline passengers filed putative class-action lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against British Airways, Delta, United/Continental, Iberia, Alitalia, and Lufthansa for breach of contract and failure to pay damages for air-transportation delay under Regulation No. 261/2004 of the European Parliament and European Council. The regulation, commonly known as EU 261, applies to all European Union (EU) airlines for flights operating anywhere and to non-EU airlines for flights operating from EU airports. The regulation requires airlines to award passengers fixed compensation under EU 261 for flight cancellations or delays of three or more hours, except where the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances that could not be avoided. These particular cases were brought by passengers who experienced a flight cancellation or delay on flights from the European Union to the United States but were not provided with EU 261 compensation. The cases generated much interest in the aviation legal community because of the potential for class-action lawsuits to be brought against airlines in the United States on the basis of the alleged violation of a purely foreign regulation governing compensation for flight delays and cancellations.
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