A recent decision by the UK Court of Appeal may pave the way to improved passenger rights for those travelling from the EU on connecting flights.
European Regulation 261/2004 was established to protect air passengers travelling within Europe, as the name suggests. However, it does also provide some level of protection for those travelling to the EU on European carriers and for those travelling from the EU to non-member states, regardless of the operating carrier.
The regulation states that passengers are entitled to compensation when they arrive at their final destination with a delay of over 3 hours. What’s not so clear is whether or not this applies to those on multi-leg journeys – if the first flight (or the “feeder flight”), has an arrival delay of less than 3 hours, but causes a passenger to miss their next connecting flight which is outside of the EU, are they still eligible to compensation if this missed connection results in a lengthy delay on arrival at the final destination?
Unfortunately, this is one of the many grey areas of the regulation, and non-community carriers generally will not pay compensation in these cases. This opinion is also backed by the judgement of Sanghvi v Cathay Pacific Airways , in which the judge ruled that compensation was only payable for flight 1 and not for flight 2, stating that both flights should be viewed separately rather than as one.
This has made claiming compensation from non-EU carriers providing connecting flights to outside the EU extremely difficult.
However, a recent decision on October 12 2017 may make things easier. The Court of Appeal’s landmark decision in the joined cases of Gahan v Emirates and Buckley and ors v Emirates  EWCA Civ 1530 is a positive step forward in air passenger rights.
In the case of Gahan v Emirates, the passenger made a single booking from Manchester to Bangkok, with a layover in Dubai. Miss Gahan’s first flight from Manchester was delayed and arrived in Dubai 3 hours and 56 minutes later than scheduled, which caused her to miss her connecting flight to Bangkok. She finally arrived with a delay of over 13 hours.
In the second case, Buckley and ors v Emirates, a family made a single booking from Manchester to Sydney via Dubai. Similarly, their feeder flight was delayed by 2 hours, causing them to miss their next flight to Sydney. They finally arrived on a replacement flight over 16 hours later than scheduled.
In both cases, the passengers’ sought compensation under EU261/2004.
In the case of Gahan, the County Court followed the judgement of Sanghvi v Cathay Pacific Airways  and ruled that compensation was only due for the delay of the first flight and not the missed connection. In the case of Buckley, however, the court came to the decision that the total delay at the final destination should be considered, and therefore the two flights should be treated as one whole journey.
Emirates took the cases to the Court of Appeal, arguing that the second flight does not fall under EU Regulation as it was operated completely outside Europe by a non-community carrier. But the Court of Appeal concluded that the liability to pay compensation depends on a passenger’s total arrival delay at their final destination, and that connecting flights outside of the EU should therefore be viewed as one single journey.
What does this mean?
Primarily, this is good news! We now have a court ruling to back our claims for passengers leaving the EU on connecting flights, and we will continue to fight for the rights of all affected passengers. So if you’ve been in a similar situation, open you claim now and we’ll make sure you get your compensation!