Market Intelligence: Airlines face tougher rules over payouts

Market Intelligence: Airlines face tougher rules over payouts

The grounds used by airlines to contest claims for compensation over flight cancellations have been made stricter by the European Court of Justice.

Ruling in a recent case, Friederike Wallentin-Hermann v Alitalia, the court rejected the carrier’s defence that a cancellation was due to “extraordinary circumstances” – a common argument put forward by airlines.

Alitalia was forced to pay compensation after it cancelled a flight due to an engine defect discovered several hours before take-off.

The case is analysed in a new industry law journal, Travel Law Quarterly, in which aviation lawyer Sue Barham writes: “One view is it will unfairly penalise carriers by requiring them to bear the compensation cost when routine technical problems arise.”

Barham says the ruling is “ambiguous as to how much a carrier must prove it has done to avoid…technical problems”. She points out safety concerns can force an airline to remove an aircraft from operation and warns: “The situation is undoubtedly more problematic than before.”

Travel Law Quarterly is edited by Professor David Grant, former head of travel law at Northumbria University, and leading travel lawyer Stephen Mason. Its editorial board includes ABTA head of legal services Simon Bunce.

To obtain the quarterly go to


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