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European Passengers Delayed by Bird Strikes Have No Recourse to Compensation

The decision has been lauded by industry body Airlines for Europe (A4E), but will undoubtedly leave passengers disappointed and out-of-pocket.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that passengers on the continent whose flights have been delayed by bird strikes are not entitled to compensation. According to the Independent, the ECJ has decreed that “a collision between an aircraft and a bird is an extraordinary circumstance,” a point that allows carriers to refuse compensation claims made by travelers who have been delayed by a bird strike for more than three hours.

The catalyst for the ruling, the paper reports, is a case involving two Czech travelers who filed a claim against Prague-based Travel Service after their Bulgaria-bound flight was delayed for over five hours by a bird strike.

While incidents such as bird strikes may be outside of a carrier’s control, the paper’s Simon Calder explains that “In previous judgements, the test applied by the court has been ‘inherency’: whether or not the problem is inherent to airline operations.”

Commenting on the ruling, authorities at the ECJ said “The air carrier cannot be obliged to take measures which would require it to make intolerable sacrifices. Although the air carrier may be required to take certain preventative measures in order to reduce or even prevent the risks of any collisions with birds, it is not responsible for the failure of other entities (such as, inter alia, airport managers or the competent air traffic controllers) to fulfil their obligations.”

Airlines for Europe (A4E), whose member carriers handle two-thirds of the continent’s passenger traffic, lauded the court’s ruling. “It’s a positive decision. There are certain things we cannot control. The first line of defense for bird strikes is the airport managers and air-traffic controllers taking preventative action,” said Aage Dünhaupt, the body’s head of communications.

Passengers, however, will be left disappointed by the ruling. Kevin Clarke, a flight delay expert at Bott & Co, a legal firm based in Cheshire, England, admitted that, “This is not the decision we were hoping for, but nonetheless it is clarity from the highest court in Europe who have found that bird strikes are an extraordinary circumstance.”

[Photo: Shutterstock]

Comments are Closed.
Mexberry August 5, 2017

There is a commercial relationship between airport , airline and their customers. If the airport does not carry out it's responsibilities to clear birds, surely there is liability to the airlines and passengers?

Counsellor May 6, 2017

The passengers may not be entitled to compensation, but what about the duty of care (food and, if necessary, lodging during the delay)?