ECJ: Lack of staff at the airport can be an exceptional circumstance

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The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that airlines do not necessarily have to pay compensation for delays due to a lack of staff when loading baggage. In a recent ruling, judges in Luxembourg confirmed that such a staff shortage can be considered an “extraordinary circumstance” justifying a delay.

The case is based on a complaint from passengers whose flight from Cologne-Bonn to the Greek island of Kos was delayed by three hours and 49 minutes, mainly due to insufficient staff to load luggage.

The affected passengers had assigned their claims for damages to the company Flightright, which sued the airline TAS. Under EU law, an airline does not have to pay compensation if it can prove that the delay was caused by exceptional circumstances. The ECJ made it clear that a staff shortage is considered exceptional if it is not part of the airline's normal business activities and cannot be controlled by it.

The Cologne Regional Court must now decide whether the circumstances in the specific case meet these criteria. The airline TAS must prove that the staff shortage was unavoidable and that measures were taken to prevent the delay.

European Court of Justice (Photo: Cédric Puisney from Brussels).
European Court of Justice (Photo: Cédric Puisney from Brussels).