If the plane starts much too late or fails completely, travelers can demand a lot of money. In certain cases, however, they come away empty-handed. And what if the security guards go on strike? A judgment should now clarify that.

The Federal Court of Justice clarifies today whether passengers can hope for compensation during warning strikes by security personnel.

EFinally vacation! But the trouble starts at the airport – there is chaos due to strikes, many connections are down. Passengers have some rights in such situations. In what cases can you hope for compensation from the airline? The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) clarified this Tuesday. (Az. X ZR 111/17)

What happened?

On February 9, 2015, there were warning strikes among security personnel at three German airports. Almost nothing works anymore in Hamburg: of 24 checkpoints, only one to three are in operation. One terminal is so overcrowded that the police have to block the entrances. Of a good 400 arrivals and departures, more than 150 were canceled in the morning. Even a couple who want to go to the Canary Islands with Easyjet are left behind. His flight is canceled, the plane takes off empty to Lanzarote.

What rights do travelers have in the event of flight cancellations?

This has been uniformly regulated in the EU since 2005. For example, those who stay longer because of a canceled flight are entitled to drinks and food during the waiting time, and if necessary to an overnight stay in a hotel. The airline must organize the transport otherwise or, if requested, refund the full ticket price. The spouses are also arguing about a so-called compensation payment.

Compensation payment – what does that mean?

Passengers are entitled to financial compensation from the airline if their connection is seriously delayed, overbooked or completely canceled at short notice. How much money there is depends on the length of the trip. For an intra-European flight of more than 1500 kilometers – like here from Hamburg to the Canary Islands – it is 400 euros per person. The amount is halved if a replacement flight brings the travelers to their destination without too much delay.

Why isn’t Easyjet paying?

According to the EU regulations, the airlines do not have to be responsible for an incident that “is due to exceptional circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken”. In addition to political instability and adverse weather conditions, the regulation also cites strikes as examples. But these are only guidelines. Whether the passengers are compensated must be checked on a case-by-case basis.

What counts as “exceptional circumstances”?

There are now a lot of judgments on this. In the event of damage to the aircraft, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) demands compensation if this is due to incorrect maintenance. If the cause is sabotage or an act of terrorism, things can look different. The BGH classifies bird strikes as an “extraordinary circumstance”, but not damage to an aircraft by a rolling luggage cart. Two criteria are always decisive: Does the event belong to the normal activity of the airline? And: is it controllable by this? In addition, everything must have been done to avoid the failures.

What applies to strikes?

The BGH has already rated strikes as “exceptional circumstances” twice. Once it was about cancellations due to a strike call by the cockpit pilots’ association, and once about delays due to general strikes in Greece with the airspace being temporarily closed. The ECJ, on the other hand, obliged the German Tuifly to make compensation payments after so-called wildcat strikes. Enormous employees called in sick to protest against restructuring. The Luxembourg judges attributed this conflict to the sphere of the company.

What are the chances in the dispute from Hamburg?

So far the plaintiffs have had no success. According to the Hamburg courts, the warning strikes by security personnel also affected the operation of Easyjet. There was a risk that passengers would no longer be checked with the usual care. It does not matter that the couple got through the lock on time and was probably properly checked.