The European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered its verdict on the case between 11 passengers and Czech Airlines on Thursday July 11th, 2019. Several years ago, 11 passengers purchased tickets for a flight from Prague to Bangkok with a stopover in Abu Dhabi. The first flight, operated by Czech Airlines arrived in time in Abu Dhabi, however, the second flight, which was operated by Etihad, arrived in Bangkok 8 hours late.
In principle, EU261 regulation only applies in certain cases, the case of a flight outside the EU operated by a non-European airline not being one of these cases. However, the European Court of Justice has just supported the 11 passengers, forcing the Czech airline to pay their compensation under the 2004 EU261 regulation. Thus, in case of a disruption, passengers who bought their tickets from a “Community-carrier” for flights departing from a Member-state and having a stopover in a Non-member-state can be entitled to compensation even if the second leg is operated from a “non-Community-carrier”.
The airline contested by pleading against Etihad who was responsible for the second flight. However, taking into account previous judgments, the court decided that the responsibility lay with the company that sold the tickets to passengers, in this case Czech Airlines because it had a contract with its 11 customers. The court stated: “In the light of the foregoing, the answer to the question referred is that Article 5(1)(c) and Article 7(1) of Regulation No 261/2004, read together with Article 3(5) of that regulation, must be interpreted as meaning that, in the case of connecting flights, where there are two flights that are the subject of a single reservation, departing from an airport located within the territory of a Member State and travelling to an airport located in a non-Member State via the airport of another non-Member State, a passenger who suffers a delay in reaching his or her destination of 3 hours or more, the cause of that delay arising in the second flight, operated, under a code-share agreement, by a carrier established in a non-Member State, may bring his or her action for compensation under that regulation against the Community air carrier that performed the first flight.”
The Court of Justice also states that Czech is free to sue Etihad in order to obtain the amount due to the customers.