Aircraft arrival time.
In November 2009, the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) confirmed in the Sturgeon case that passengers are entitled to compensation when they reach their final destination with a delay of at least 3 hours after the arrival time scheduled by the airline.
Initially, it was believed that the arrival time should be calculated from the moment the aircraft comes to a stop, and not from the touch down time; this interpretation has led to an increase in passenger numbers entitled to claim compensation for flight delays.
Later on, ECJ clarified in the Germanwings GmbH v. Ronny Henning (C 452/13) case the moment considered for the calculation of the length of the arrival delay.
On September 4th, 2014, ECJ decided that the length of the arrival delay is determined in relation to the time when at least one of the doors of the aircraft is opened; the assumption being that, at that moment, the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft.
This is wonderful news for passengers, as it means that greater numbers could be entitled to claim compensation for the delay of their flight.
To decide this, ECJ continued to state that in respect of passengers, they are constrained to stay in the enclosed space in which they are sitting during the flight and that this situation does not change when their aircraft touches down or when the aircraft reaches its parking position, and the parking brakes are engaged.
It is only when the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft and the order is given to that effect to open the doors of the aircraft that the passengers may in principle resume their normal activities without being subject to the constraints.
Anyone travelling by plane might easily note that there may be a considerable amount of time between the parking of the aircraft and the moment its doors are opened.
The minute that counts.
Usually there are no disputes between airlines and passengers regarding the precise arrival time. However, if the arrival time is close to the three-hour-time-threshold, the airline will challenge the meeting of the conditions for compensation payment.
Therefore, every minute counts when claiming flight delay compensation according to Regulation EU 261/2004.
Taking advantage of this time threshold, many airlines claim that the flight had been delayed for only 2 hours and 59 minutes, or even less, thus trying to evade the compensation payment.
Therefore, since air carriers have been known to make excuses to attempt to avoid the applicability of the EU Regulation, it is necessary that passengers might also be inventive when facing the arguments of airlines and fight for what is most likely owed to them.
Thus, when a flight delay is close to the three-hours-time threshold, our advice for you is to take pictures of the doors of the aircraft to show that they have been kept shut beyond the threshold. This may be further used in court as proof if the air carrier claims that the flight delay was shorter than three hours.
We can help you obtain the compensation owed to you, in in-court and out-of-court proceedings, with the support of our specialised lawyers with regards to these issues.