In a recent decision, the European Court of Justice, ruled that in cases of connecting flights which are the subject of a single reservation, the air carrier performing the first flight is obliged to pay compensation to passengers if they suffer long delays in the arrival of the second flight even if such second flight is performed by a non-EU air carrier.

The case was brought forward by a group of 11 passengers who made a single reservation for flights connecting Prague and Bangkok through Abu Dhabi. Ceske’ aerolinie operated the first flight, which was punctual, while the second flight, which was performed under a code-share agreement, by Etihad Airways, arrived 8 hours and 8 minutes late. They sought compensation from Ceske’ aerolinie.

The airline claimed it could not be held responsible for a flight carried out by another air carrier and on hearing the case on appeal, the Prague City Court, Czech Republic asked the Court of Justice whether Ceske’ aerolinie was obliged to pay compensation under the regulation on the rights of air passengers.

The Court of Justice stated that a flight with one or more connections which is the subject of a single reservation is considered as one whole for the purposes of the rights of passengers for compensation and the second flight performed by a non-EU carrier from and to a non-EU country fell within the scope of the regulation as well.

According to the Court, the air carrier that performed the first flight can be liable to pay compensation because of the delay in the arrival of the second flight if the said air carrier is categorised as the operating air carrier on the basis that it performed the flight.  In the case under review, the said airline did perform a flight under the contract of carriage entered into with the aggrieved passengers and could thus be categorised as the operating air carrier.

The court concluded that Ceske’ aerolinie was in principle bound to pay compensation to the passengers in this case because of the long delay in the arrival of the connecting flight but that the said airline had a right to bring an action against the second air carrier in order to obtain redress for that financial cost.

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