Airlines are liable to compensate passengers on connecting flights who arrive at least three hours late at their ultimate destination, the European Union's highest court said.
"The fact that the original flight was not delayed beyond the limits laid down by EU law does not affect the right to compensation," the EU Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday. The Luxembourg-based court's ruling ca not be appealed.
The EU tribunal has in recent years been asked to clarify the bloc's law on compensation duties for airlines in a series of cases that were triggered by passenger compensation requests. The court has ruled in previous cases involving Deutsche Lufthansa, EasyJet and TUI Travel that passengers who arrive "three hours or more after the scheduled arrival time" have a right to compensation, except in "extraordinary" circumstances.
In Tuesday's case Luz-Tereza Folkerts sought compensation from Air France after arriving 11 hours late in Asuncion, Paraguay on a flight that took her from Bremen, Germany to Paris, France and from Paris to Rio de Janeiro.
The German tribunal dealing with the challenge by Air France asked the EU court whether the compensation duty still applied if the first leg of the flight was only delayed by 2.5 hours and as a result the passenger missed her connecting flight.
The EU court in 2009 ruled that airlines have to compensate passengers who reach their final destination that much later because of a flight delay. Carriers are exempt from compensation in cases of extraordinary circumstances, such as a strike or bad weather conditions.
* Bloomberg News