January 25, 2018 Articles

Recent Developments in Aviation Litigation: Consumer Protection Utilizing European Union Regulations

By Erika Maurice and Vincent C. Lesch III

European Union Regulation (EC) 261
2015 marked the end of the litigation involving European Union Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004 (EC 261 or the regulation). EC 261 was implemented in 2004 by European Union Member States as a mechanism to govern passengers’ rights in the event of denied boarding, flight cancellation, and delay. Under EC 261, all passengers, regardless of citizenship or residency, travelling on any flights operated by EU-based carriers or flights operated by carriers based outside the European Union that depart from an airport located in the European Union, are provided with the following rights: 1.) the right to “care” and assistance in the form of meals, hotel accommodations, ground transportation and access to telephone or email; 2.) the right to reimbursement or re-routing; and 3.) the right to compensation, prescribed in fixed amounts depending on the distance of the flight. As initially drafted, the right to compensation was available only to passengers who were denied boarding or whose flights were cancelled. However, in 2009, the European Court of Justice (CJEU) expanded the right to compensation to passengers on flights delayed more than three hours, reasoning that a long delay caused as much inconvenience as a flight cancellation and, therefore, should be treated as such. See ECJ Case C-629/10, Sturgeon v. Condor, Bock v. Air France (Nov. 19, 2009); ECJ Joint Cases C-402/07 & C-432/07.

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