On 17th September the European Court took an important decision in Case C-257/14 and said that airlines must pay out if flights are delayed or cancelled for “technical reasons”.
The case concerns a flight from Quito n Ecuador to Amsterdam taken in 2009 by passenger Corina van der Lans, which was delayed by 29 hours. Her claim for compensation was rejected by the air carrier KLM arguing that the delay was due to technical problems that emerged just before take off. Specifically, two components were defective, the fuel pump and a hydromechanical unit and as they were unavailable the air carrier had to transport them by air from Amsterdam. KLM observed that the defective components had not exceeded their average lifetime and that their manufacturer had not provided any specific indications as to which defects might arise if those components reached a certain age.
The Court states that certain technical problems resulting, in particular, from hidden manufacturing defects affecting the safety of flights or acts of sabotage or terrorism may exempt air carriers from their obligation to pay compensation.
However, the airline, bound to ensure the maintenance and proper functioning of aircrafts has to take into account that no component of an aircraft is indestructible; these situations are inherent in the normal operations of an airline and for that reason cannot be deemed extraordinary circumstances.
Under the EU compensation rules, passengers whose flight is cancelled or more than three hours delayed can claim €250-€600 depending on the distance of the flight. The compensation applies to flights departing from any EU airport or arriving in the EU with an EU carrier or one from Iceland, Norway or Switzerland.