A recent ruling of the European Court of Justice states that airlines must pay flight compensations for flights delayed and canceled due to "wildcat strikes".
Up until now, all strikes fell under the category of extraordinary circumstances: airlines could exonerate themselves from the responsibility of the flight disruption when it was caused by a strike. As a result, they didn't have to pay a compensation to air passengers.
Or, to be more precise, not every time.
Saying that you can get compensated for a flight disrupted by a strike would be a stretch. And unfortunately, travelers are already starting to be confused when trying to figure out which flights are eligible for compensation.
What Does EC261 Say?
The EU Regulation 261/2004, more commonly known as EC261, states that passengers are entitled to compensation when their flight was delayed or canceled and they arrive at their final destination 3 hours late or more.
Airlines can exonerate themselves from paying this compensation if they can prove that the disruption was the result of “extraordinary circumstances”. To put it simply, when the disruption is not the airline’s responsibility, they don’t have to pay the compensation.
Extraordinary circumstances include most notably bad weather, air traffic control restrictions, medical emergency, security concerns, and industrial actions (strikes).
What the ruling of the European Court of Justice changes
Up until now, air passengers were not eligible for compensation when their flight was delayed or canceled because of a strike.
But the ECJ rejected the defense of the German airline TUIfly, on the basis that:
“The spontaneous absence of a significant part of the flight crew staff (‘wildcat strikes’) … which stems from the surprise announcement by an operating air carrier of a restructuring of the undertaking, following a call echoed not by the staff representatives of the company but spontaneously by the workers themselves who placed themselves on sick leave, is not covered by the concept of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ within the meaning of that provision.”
In other words, the court ruled that this kind of unofficial, wildcat strike, was under the responsibility of the airline. As such, they cannot be considered as "extraordinary circumstances" and passengers who experienced a flight disruption because of them are entitled to compensation.
What About Past Cases of Airline Strike?
Because it will hold precedent, this ruling in favor of passenger rights will be legally binding for future similar cases. But that's not all.
In addition, the retroactivity of the law means that past cases of passengers who didn’t receive compensation because the strike was ruled as “extraordinary circumstances” will be reopened by ClaimCompass.
Here is what a spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said about past cases of airline strikes:
“This also means that any passenger who feels that a previous claim was refused on the basis of the disruption being as a result of wildcat strike action, could now go back to their airline and request their claim is reviewed,”
According to Simon Calder, Travel Correspondent for The Independent, Air France alone may have to pay up to €50m.
Strikes are still extraordinary circumstances
The court brought clarity to cases of “wildcat strikes”, ruling that these cannot be used by airlines as an excuse not to pay compensation.
However, under EC261, “official strikes” are still considered as extraordinary circumstances. It would therefore be a misleading to state that air passengers can claim compensation for a flight disrupted by a strike.
Each compensation claim will have to be investigated on an individual basis to assess the conditions of the strike and determine whether it was an official or wildcat one.
What won’t be affected is passengers’ right to care in cases of delayed, canceled, and overbooked flights. Airlines must provide meals and, if necessary, accommodation, to passengers whose flight has been canceled or delayed for a long time.
Was your flight delayed or canceled in the past 5 years? Submit your claim now and check if you are eligible to a flight compensation!
What you need to remember:
- Strikes are considered "extraordinary circumstances"
- Airlines can deny you compensation when your flight was delayed or canceled due to an official strike
- However, in cases of wildcat strikes by the airline staff, you are eligible to compensation
- ClaimCompass can help you with your canceled or delayed flight compensation claim
- If you submitted a claim that was denied because of a strike, you may actually be eligible thanks to this new ruling
- You remain ineligible in cases of strikes from the airport staff and air traffic controllers