A 2013 Billund to Crete flight operated by the Danish airline Primera Air was delayed for more than ten hours due to a technical problem with one of the aircraft's wings. A grandmother who was travelling with her grandchild sued over the delay and on Monday the Supreme Court ruled that the airline must pay them both €400.
The court also ordered Primera Air to pay the same amount to ten other passengers who filed for compensation after their August 2013 flight to Varna, Bulgaria was delayed by over 11 hours due to a leaking fuel cap.
The decisions follow the passengers' victories at both the city and higher court levels.
The ruling is viewed as being of such principle importance that it will likely pave the way for rulings in around 1,500 cases about flight delays that are currently in the lower Danish court system. In all, around 4,500 passengers are involved.
The company Flyforsinkelse.dk, which specialises in providing legal assistance to airline passengers affected by delays and cancellations, cheered the court decision.
“We are enormously glad that the passengers have won again. This sends a strong signal that the many cases that have been put on hold now also have a good chance going the passengers' way,” company spokesman Johan Fugmann told TV2.
The airline trade organization Dansk Luftfart said it respectfully disagreed with the court's ruling, saying it had too broadly interrupted Europe's air passenger rights rules which state that flights delayed by more than three hours can result in compensation as long as the delay wasn't caused by “extraordinary circumstances”.
The Supreme Court ruled that technical problems cannot be seen as “extraordinary”, but Dansk Luftfart said the ruling puts undue responsibility on airlines.
“The consequences of the ruling stick the airlines with what appears to be a strict liability for technical deficiencies even if the airlines have done everything necessary in terms of maintenance,” Dansk Luftfart spokesman Michael Svane told Ritzau.
The trade group said it would take the ruling up European policymakers.
“Now we need to take the ball to politicians to see if we can find a better balance between consideration for the passengers' right to compensation and consideration for the airlines,” he said.
He said that the ruling could cause airlines to take risks and fly with planes that have technical problems in order to avoid having to pay compensation for a delay.
“That's why we need to pursue this politically because I don't think airlines can live with these rules,” he said.