The Court of Justice of the EU ruled on 4 September that the decisive moment for the calculation of flight delay on the basis of EU air passenger rights regulation is the opening of at least one door of the aircraft through which passengers can leave the plane. This ruling constitutes the EU court´s reply to Austrian judiciary´s question on the application of EU legislation on passenger rights. In the Austrian case, a certain individual sues the German airline Germanwings arguing that he is entitled to the 250€ compensation for a delay of more than 3 hours, which the airline refuses. According to the airline, the aircraft landed in the final destination 2 hours and 58 minutes after its scheduled arrival time, which is less than the 3-hour limit set by the EU legislation. The passenger argues that he could not leave the aircraft for the next 5 minutes during which the plane taxied to its parking position and the doors were opened - that is 3 hours and 3 minutes after the scheduled arrival.
According to the EU court, once a passenger enters an airplane, his activities become quite limited in comparison to ordinary life. This limitation lasts until he is technically able to leave the airplane - that is until the first door opens. Due to this fact, for the purpose of calculation of the flight delay, the decisive moment is not the aircraft´s landing on the runway, as this fact does not mean the disappearance of limitations to ordinary life activities, but rather the door´s opening at the parking position.
The case will now continue in Austria, where the judiciary is legally-bound to observe the EU court´s ruling. The same goes for all the EU´s courts in all future cases.
6th October 2021
9th July 2021