New CJEU cases on air passenger rights

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has rendered on September 3, 2020, two cases on air passenger rights. Both cases concern a decision by a national court to make a reference to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling.

1) Interpretation of the compensation procedure

In the first case, C-356/19, Delfly v Smartwings Poland, the Polish district court asked preliminary questions to the CJEU regarding article 7 (1) of Regulation 261/2004 (Air Passenger rights regulation) and the modality to get compensation.

The facts concern an airline, which rejected the passenger claim because it had been expressed, contrary to the provisions of national law, in an incorrect currency as the request was in PLN and not in euros.

The CJEU points out that the refusal to allow such a payment would be incompatible with the requirement to interpret broadly the rights of air passengers and with the principle of equal treatment of aggrieved passengers.

To conclude, the CJEU declared that passengers whose flights have been cancelled or subject to a long delay, or their legal successors, may demand payment of the amount of the compensation referred to in the Air Passenger Rights Regulation in the national currency of their place of residence, so that that regulation precludes a Member State’s legislation or case-law which results in the dismissal of an action brought for that purpose by such passengers or their legal successors on the sole ground that the claim was expressed in that national currency.

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2)  Interpretation of the obligation to offer hotel accommodation 

In the second case, C-530/19, NM v ON, the Austrian Supreme Court asked preliminary questions to the CJEU regarding article 9(1) (b) of Regulation 261/2004 and the obligation of the airline to offer hotel accommodation.

The facts concern an airline which offered accommodation free of charge to the passenger following the cancellation of her flight. However, during the stay at the hotel, the passenger who is confined to a wheelchair, fell and was seriously injured after the front wheels of her wheelchair got caught in a transverse gutter channel in a pathway. The passenger ordered the airline to pay damages by way of compensation for the harm suffered.

In this case, the CJEU declared that the obligation of the airline to offer hotel accommodation free of charge does not mean that that carrier is required to take care of the accommodation arrangements as such. The CJEU justifies its interpretation by declaring that such an obligation goes beyond the scope of the scheme for standardised and immediate on-the-spot assistance that the EU legislature intended to establish for the benefit of passengers.

Furthermore, the CJEU specifies that an air carrier cannot be required, based on Regulation 261/2004 and its article 9(1)(b) to compensate a passenger for damage caused by fault on the part of employees of the hotel.

By this interpretation, the CJEU strictly interprets article 9(1) (b) of Regulation 261/2004.

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Notre conseil :

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de Anne-Valentine Rensonnet , Alexandre Cassart

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