Airlines must also ensure replacement flights as quickly as possible if the cancellation occurs due to exceptional circumstances such as storms. If the airline complies with this, an additional claim for compensation may arise. This was decided by the German Federal Court of Justice.
The European Court of Justice already ruled in 2020 that airlines – as provided for in the Air Passenger Rights Regulation – must offer replacement transport as quickly as possible in the event of significant delays and/or cancellations. However, some providers do not take this seriously. For example, the low-cost airline Wizz Air often claims, with reference to its own conditions of carriage, that only rebooking on its own Wizz Air flights or a refund should be possible. However, this does not correspond to the practice of the courts.
Based on lawsuits filed via Flightright, the Federal Court of Justice found that own flights as well as non-stop flights or both. Transfer flights from other airlines must be offered as an alternative without the traveler incurring any additional costs.
The cases that were heard before the BGH date from 2018 and 2020. The first case concerned a flight from New York to Munich, which had to be canceled due to bad weather conditions. The plaintiff arrived 96 hours late. In the second autumn there was a two-day delay on the Keflavik-Munich route.
It is noteworthy that the BGH overturned the decisions of the two lower courts. These decided that in exceptional cases passengers would not be entitled to compensation if the airlines arranged replacement flights within three hours of the cancellation. After that, this would no longer be reasonable, according to the judges from the Erding District Court and the Landshut Regional Court.
However, the Federal Court of Justice saw this differently and ruled with reference to the ECJ’s finding that airlines must pay compensation if they do not arrange replacement transport or provide it considerably late. It remains to be seen whether the BGH ruling will actually lead to something changing in daily practice.
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