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European Court of Justice: in the case of single unit bookings, passenger rights are also valid for long flight delays outside of the European Union

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Amsterdam, 31/05/2018. Following today’s ruling of the European Court of Justice, passengers are also entitled to compensation in the case of a delayed or cancelled flight with a stopover outside the European Union if it concerns a single unit booking. Therefore, airlines cannot argue that such flights (connecting flights outside of EU territory) fall outside of the legal scope of Regulation (EC) 261/2004. Enid Heenk, Head of Legal at, described the decision as a “great result for the validity of passenger rights”.

What does this mean for the current state of affairs?

Within the existing conditions, European Regulation (EC) 261/2004 grants passengers the right to receive compensation in the event of a flight being delayed three or more hours when arriving to its final destination. Passengers are entitled to compensation when the airline is unable to provide evidence that the delay, or cancellation, was caused by an extraordinary circumstance (events outside of the airline’s operational responsibility). These elements remain the same.

The Court’s judgement (case C-537/17) now establishes that bookings originating from the European Union and that consist of multiple flights, with one or more connecting flights outside the EU, should be considered as a whole for the purpose of the right to compensation for passengers. Passengers can now also claim compensation if they are delayed as a result of an incident outside of the EU. The Court has then confirmed that passengers have the right to claim for compensation when they miss their connecting flight outside the EU. has been helping passengers claim compensation for this type of flight disruptions and welcomes the judgment.

“Another confirmation for passenger rights” – Enid Heenk, Head of Legal at

German judges in Berlin referred the case in question to the Court of Justice of the European Union, which has then considered it and released their judgment today. The case concerned German passengers who flew with the airline Royal Air Maroc (also a non-European airline) and claimed for compensation when they were delayed during a scheduled stopover in Morocco. The claim was rejected by Royal Air Maroc on the grounds that the incident took place outside the EU.

"Another confirmation for passenger rights!” stated Enid Heenk, Head of Legal at a claims bureau that has been mediating between airlines and passengers, for almost eight years, in order to obtain compensation for delayed or cancelled flights. She also expressed her satisfaction with the fact that another court has upheld the validity of passenger rights.

Passenger rights protection is increasing in Europe

"A change of aircraft during the stopover does not alter the fact that two or more flights booked as a single unit must be considerered a single connecting flight" says the European Court of Justice.

German specialists are also reacting positively to the ruling of the European Court of Justice. Robert Sanders, Claims Specialist at is pleased that the Court, in this case, is once again taking the side of the passengers. "Last month there was already a case about passenger rights. In this case, the (also German) Court ruled that passengers were also entitled to compensation in the event of a sudden strike by staff (a so-called 'wildcat strike'). Passenger rights protection is increasing in Europe”.