European Court of Justice clarifies passenger rights

Thursday, July 5, 2018

04/07/2018. The European Court of Justice deliberated on a case regarding the responsibility of airlines when a passenger claims for compensation in the event of a flight's delay, cancellation or a denied boarding incident. The case number C-532/17 considers those occasion in which airlines are collaborating with each other under an agreement known as a wet lease. The court case 'Wolfgang Wirth and Others v Thomson Airways Ltd. contemplates the obligation of an operating airline to pay compensation when one of its flights has been delayed or cancelled. In this way, the European Regulation 261/2004 will be made even clearer and more transparent for the consumer.

Running in circles and going nowhere fast, mediator between airlines and passengers, holds the operating carrier responsible in the event of a long delay, cancellation or denied boarding, as laid down in European Regulation 261/2004. The European Court ruled inversely today in the Wirth v Thomson Airways Ltd. case which ponders the liability of the operating air carriers.

At peak times, airline A regularly hires an aircraft from airline B, this includes: personnel, maintenance and insurance (a contract referred to as a wet lease). This agreement, which enables the airlines to work together, ensures that airline A takes on all operational costs and responsibilities (fuel, airport taxes, baggage, safety, passenger welfare, etc.). But which party is then liable when paying compensation in the event of a long delay or cancellation?

"This situation is common, but until now the European Regulation on Air Passenger Rights did not provide an unambiguous answer to it. It is good that this case has been reviewed by the Court," says Tom van Bokhoven, CEO of "Many passengers have been kept running in circles because of this debate. Today, the European Court finally intervened and ruled on this case.

Judgment of the European Court regarding the responsability of operating airlines when a flight is delayed, cancelled or overbooked

A German court has referred the court case to the European Court for a preliminary ruling in the Wolfgang Wirth dossier. The passenger booked a flight with TUI fly, but it was carried out by the British company Thomson Airways Ltd. (under the aforementioned wet lease agreement). The flight was delayed by more than three hours, which entitled Wirth to financial compensation of € 400 per person. Thomson Airways Ltd. (the hired company) believes that the risk lies with TUI fly, as the ticket has been booked with them. The European Court has today ruled in favour of Thomson Airways. This resolution is can be considered a confirmation of passengers’ rights, according to; it will make it harder for the airlines to keep their passengers going around in circles while they bounce the responsibility from one air carrier to the other.

The Court has now established that when a delay occurs within a flight being operated by a wet leased carrier (in this case Thomson Airways Ltd.), the operating airline shall not be held responsible for the financial compensation due to passengers following a long delay or cancelled flight. Thus, the operating carrier is not in all cases responsible for paying financial compensation.

The website specialised in enforcing passenger rights,, regularly observes claims in which an airline tries to shift the responsibility onto the other airline. "Although the rights of passengers are protected by law, we still too often see that airlines are confused about this. From now on, can make the right claim to the right airline," says Tom van Bokhoven, CEO of "And we can continue to implement the law fairly and efficiently.

For more information on the court case and ruling please visit:

If your flight hast been delayed, cancelled or overbooked you can always check the validity of your flight for free using our claim calculator here: