BGH strengthens passenger rights in the event of flight cancellation

If the plane takes off much too late or fails completely, travelers can claim compensation. In certain cases, however, they come away empty-handed. What if the security guards go on strike?

If the security controls are on strike, it depends on the individual case.

PPassengers whose flight is canceled due to a strike at the security checkpoints may be entitled to compensation from the airline. The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Karlsruhe decided on Tuesday. In principle, the airlines only have to pay their customers nothing if they had no influence on the events and the cancellation was unavoidable. According to the ruling, this is by no means always the case with security strikes. (Az. X ZR 111/17)

A couple who wanted to fly to the Canary Island of Lanzarote on February 9, 2015 with the British low-cost airline Easyjet, took legal action. On the day, warning strikes by the security staff massively impaired operations at Hamburg Airport. The connection was therefore canceled, the plane took off without passengers.

The spouses demand a compensation payment from Easyjet in accordance with EU law. The Hamburg district court, which had dismissed their complaint, now has to negotiate and decide again.

Exceptional circumstances may or may not apply in the event of a strike

Since 2005, travelers in the EU have been entitled to financial compensation if their connection is seriously delayed, overbooked or completely canceled at short notice. However, the airline does not have to pay if “extraordinary circumstances” are to blame and everything reasonable has been done to avoid the adverse effects. This can be the case with strikes, but it is not automatically the case.

The couple drove to the airport early in the morning, passed the controls several hours before departure and waited at the gate ready to travel. According to the Karlsruhe judges, there is only no alternative to cancellation if, due to the delays, not a single passenger arrives in time for boarding. The fact that “numerous passengers” miss the flight does not yet force the airline to cancel the connection entirely.

The district court had shared Easyjet’s concerns that due to the high level of traffic at the few open locks, not all travelers were checked with the necessary care. The BGH does not allow this to apply in general. The airline already needs evidence of a specific risk, said the presiding judge Peter Meier-Beck. In such a case, however, it can be assumed that the responsible aviation security authority would have to close all controls anyway.