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CJ EU: the right to compensation for long delays of flights applies to connecting flights to third States with stopovers outside the EU

The judgment was issued yesterday

A change of aircraft during the stopover does not alter the fact that two or more flights booked as a single unit must be considered a single connecting flight

Claudia Wegener booked a flight with Royal Air Maroc (RAM) from Berlin (Germany) to Agadir (Morocco), with a stopover and change of aircraft in Casablanca (Morocco). When she presented herself for boarding in Casablanca of the aircraft destined for Agadir, RAM did not allow her to board, informing her that her seat had been reassigned to another passenger. Wegener eventually boarded another Royal Air Maroc aircraft and arrived in Agadir four hours after the scheduled time of arrival. 

She subsequently applied for compensation for that delay. However, Royal Air Maroc refused her application on the ground that she was not entitled to claim compensation under the EU regulation on air passenger rights. 

That regulation does not, in fact, apply to flights effected exclusively outside the European Union. The airports of Casablanca and Agadir being situated in Morocco, the applicability of the regulation therefore depends on the question of whether the two flights (Berlin ‒ Casablanca and Casablanca ‒ Agadir), which were booked as a single unit, should be classified as a single (connecting) flight departing from a Member State (Germany), or whether it would be appropriate to consider them separately, in such a way that the flight from Casablanca to Agadir would not come within the scope of the regulation. 

It is in those circumstances that the Landgericht Berlin (Regional Court, Berlin, Germany), to which she applied, asked the Court of Justice to interpret the regulation. 

In yesterday’s judgment, the Court rules that the regulation applies to passenger transport effected under a single booking and comprising, between its departure from an airport situated in a Member State (Berlin) and its arrival at an airport situated in a third country (Agadir), a scheduled stopover outside the EU (Casablanca) with a change of aircraft. 

According to the Court, it is apparent from the regulation and case-law that when, as in the present case, two (or more) flights are booked as a single unit, those flights constitute a whole for the purposes of the right to compensation for passengers. Those flights must therefore be considered as one and the same ‘connecting flight’.

The Court notes in addition that the change of aircraft that may arise during a connecting flight has no influence on that qualification. None of the provisions of the regulation renders the classification as connecting flight subject to the condition that all of the flights included must be effected aboard the same aircraft. 

Consequently, a transport such as that at issue in the present case must be regarded, taken as a whole, as a single connecting flight and, therefore, as coming within the scope of the regulation.

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