The French Court of Cassation elaborated on an extensive interpretation regarding the rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of long delay of flights

By Lachezar Tsvetkov

The present case concerned the common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of long delay of flights.

It is well known that the long delay of flights causes serious trouble and inconvenience to passengers. Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 comes to ensure the passengers’ rights.

According to article 7 of the aforementioned regulation, passengers shall receive compensation amounting to: (a) EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 kilometres or less;

(b) EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres;

(c) EUR 600 for all flights not falling under (a) or (b).

The French Court of cassation (Cour de cassation) has already delivered several judgments regarding Article 7 of the Regulation (EC) No 261/2004. One of the most prominent is dated from January 15, 2015 (Cass. Civ.1, 15 janvier 2015, n° 13-25351).

In abovementioned case, the French Court of cassation confirms the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (Sturgeon Joined cases C-402/07 and C-432/07)  according to which passengers whose flights are delayed may be treated, for the purposes of the application of the right to compensation, as passengers whose flights are cancelled and they may thus rely on the right to compensation laid down in Article 7 of the regulation where they suffer, on account of a flight delay, a loss of time equal to or in excess of three hours, that is, where they reach their final destination three hours or more after the arrival time originally scheduled by the air carrier.

We can clearly observe the evolution of the French Court of cassation regarding article 7 of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004. On that occasion, the present recent case dated from November 30, 2016 comes to demonstrate and explore the development of the position of the French Court of cassation concerning the right to compensation under article 7. In the present case, the French Court faced an entirely new situation which led to an extensive interpretation of the Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 regarding the rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of long delay of flights.

Mrs. X. bought two plane tickets for herself and her husband for Emirates flight from Paris to Kuala-Lumpur via Dubai.

On departure from Paris, the flight was delayed by more than two hours compared to the scheduled time. As a result, Mr. and Mrs. X missed their connection in Dubai.

Therefore, Mr. and Mrs. X. boarded the next day on another flight and arrived in Kuala Lumpur with a delay of about ten hours.

On that occasion, Mrs X. filed an action against the company Emirates before the local Paris court (La juridiction de proximité de Paris) under Article 7 of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004.

The aforementioned court ordered company Emirates to pay Mr and Mrs X the sum of EUR 600 each, as compensation, with interest at the statutory rate, as well as a certain sum in reimbursement of Taxi charges.

The company Emirates lodged an appeal before the French Court of cassation on the grounds that the local Paris court violated by misapplication, Articles 3, 6 and 7 of Regulation No 261/2004.

The Court of cassation referred to the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 26 February 2013 (Folkerts, Case C-11/11) according to which compensation is payable, on the basis of Article 7 of Regulation No 261/2004, to a passenger on directly connecting flight operated by the same carrier who has arrived at the final destination at least three hours later than the scheduled arrival time.

Thus, the Court of Cassation considered that, having suffered a delay of more than three hours on arrival in Kuala Lumpur, which was their final destination, Mr. and Mrs. X. were entitled to compensation regardless of whether the flight in question, which was the correspondence of a flight departing from an airport located in the territory of a Member State  to which the Treaty applies within the meaning of Article 3, paragraph 1 a) of the Regulation and which delay was the cause of the missed connection in Dubai, was departing from an airport located in a third country and destined for another third country and carried out by a non-Community air carrier.

Consequently, the Court of cassation dismissed the appeal of the company Emirates and ordered it to pay Mr. and Mrs. X the overall sum of 2,500 euros.

With the present judgment, the French Court of cassation enhanced the rights of passengers and extended its case law regarding Article 7 of the Regulation (EC) No 261/2004. This is an important decision, because the proposal for revision of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 aims to change the thresholds for compensation in case of delay.

For more case-law see EuroCases

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