The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled recently that damages to aircraft caused by foreign objects, a screw lying on the tarmac in this specific case, are to be considered an extraordinary circumstance. However, it has stated that Germanwings, the airline involved in the case, must provide enough evidence to demonstrate that the airline, in fact, did everything in its reach to mitigate the incident’s consequences.
Extraordinary circumstances and compensation for a flight delay, cancellation or overbooking
The European Court of Justice received the request for clarification and a preliminary ruling from the regional court of Landgericht in Cologne, Germany. The German court wanted to know if damage caused by a foreign object could be considered an extraordinary circumstance. Germanwings argues that such damages do not fall under the responsibility of the airline and therefore the company should be exempt from paying compensation to its passengers.
The European Court of Justice agreed with the airline, stating that “although air carriers are regularly faced with damage to the tyres of their aircraft, where the malfunctioning of a tyre is the sole result of impact with a foreign object lying on the airport runway, it cannot be regarded as inherent, by its nature or origin, in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned. In addition, those circumstances are outside that carrier’s actual control. They are therefore extraordinary circumstances within the meaning of the air passenger rights regulation.”
Airlines have to prove they’ve taken all possible actions to minimise the impact of an extraordinary circumstance
Nevertheless, it clarified the obligations that airlines have when one of their flights has been affected by an extraordinary circumstance. An air carrier has to make a considerable effort and try to minimise the consequences of the extraordinary circumstance before it can rule out the payment of compensation to its passengers. As stated by the Court: “in order for its obligation to pay compensation under the air passenger rights regulation to be excluded, an air carrier must also prove that it deployed all its resources in terms of staff or equipment and the financial means at its disposal in order to avoid the changing of a tyre damaged by a foreign object lying on the airport runway from leading to long delay of the flight in question. In that regard, specifically in respect of damage to tyres, the Court notes that air carriers are able to have at their disposal, in all airports from which they operate, contracts for changing tyres under which they are afforded priority treatment”.
As mentioned above, it is necessary for the airlines not only to provide evidence on the fact that an extraordinary circumstance has been the cause for your disruption in order to reject your claim for compensation, they also need to prove that they did everything in their power to minimise the consequences of the said event.
Did the airline reject your claim for compensation been rejected unfairly?
It’s probable that the airline might have overstretched the argument of an extraordinary circumstance to reject your claim. Our team here at Flight-Delayed is happy to fact check the airline’s arguments. Submit your claim with us under our no-win, no-fee basis and we’ll get to work right away. Best of all, our 25% win fee covers all costs associated with claiming the compensation from the airline. Even if we have to take them to court!
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