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  • Cancelled flight due to technical reasons: the ECJ reply

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    It began 13 August 2009 when Corina Van der Lans was about to board his flight Quito (Ecuador) – Amsterdam (Netherlands). Operated by KLM airline, it was scheduled to take off at 9:15 am local time. So far, so good …
    But the plane has left the tarmac until the next day at 19:30 and landed with 29 hours late in Amsterdam!
    Ms Van der Lans then sent a letter to the airline company in question to ask what it was due, ie, compensation of up to € 600. As provided by the European Regulation 261/2004 and by the jurisprudence of the EU Court of Justice (ECJ), notably in the judgment of 19 November 2009 Sturgeon, who says that victims of a delay of more 3 hours should be compensated in the same way that the victims of cancellations.
    KLM rejected his request by stating that this incident was caused by extraordinary circumstances. They did not fail to point out to the applicant that the fuel pump and the hydromechanical unit were defective and that it took forward new pieces from Amsterdam …

    The intervention of the ECJ

    Ms Van der Lans, convinced that the company could not get away with it, decided to enter the Amsterdam court. She recalled that the ECJ, in the Wallentin-Hermann judgment, said that the resolution of technical defects is inherent in airline activity and can not therefore be described as extraordinary circumstance.
    The court, at the time, consulted the ECJ about the judgment.
    It held that no technical problem can not be described as “extraordinary” unless it relates to an event which is not inherent in the airline business.
    What could be the case of a hidden defect recognized by the manufacturer or a defect resulting from an act of sabotage or terrorism.

    The conclusion

    In this case, the technical problem experienced by the aircraft Mrs Van der Lans was due to any act of sabotage and was not recognized by the manufacturer or any competent authority … It is true that this incident is unexpected but according to the ECJ, “it is inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier, that carrier is ordinarily confronted with this type of unforeseen problems.” Moreover, “the prevention of such failure or repair are not immune to the effective mastery of the carrier concerned since it is the latter to ensure the maintenance and operation of its equipment.”

    Therefore, the incident Mrs Van der Lans was found compensable by the Court on September 17. The Amsterdam court can therefore condemn KLM to compensate.

    Scope of the decision

    While it became one of their most commonly used excuses, I think the airlines will not be long to change register. While many thought they could continue to play with the regulation 261/2004, the right takes a new direction. Indeed, the jurisprudence has shown us in recent years, with this judgment and those preceding it, the trend was reversed for the companies to benefit consumers as we are. And it is not ready to stop.
    One can only hope these decisions, for now, European extend beyond the borders of the community can do one day the subject of national legislation (the US, North Africa …). And who knows, maybe one day, an international convention of protection for passengers.
    Especially since you’re not unknowingly, our airlines are certainly not among the most problematic in the world …

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