Top EU court rules on flight delays in Germanwings case

A Germanwings plane in Berlin - file pic Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption An Austrian court will now rule in the Germanwings case based on the ECJ's judgment

The EU's top court says an airliner's arrival time is not when it lands but when its doors are opened - a ruling that affects compensation claims.

The budget airline Germanwings had argued that a plane had touched down with a delay of just under three hours - so compensation was not due.

But the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said on-board rules inconvenienced passengers until they left the plane.

A passenger can claim 250 euros (£198) for a delay of three hours or more.

Ruling in the case Germanwings v Ronny Henning, the ECJ said "the concept of 'arrival time', which is used to determine the length of the delay to which passengers on a flight have been subject, refers to the time at which at least one of the doors of the aircraft is opened".

Thursday's ruling was prompted by a delay to a Germanwings flight from Salzburg to Cologne/Bonn, but it is binding across the EU. An Austrian court had asked the ECJ to clarify the definition of "arrival time".

EU compensation rules apply to passengers departing from any airport in the EU or passengers arriving in the EU with an EU carrier or one from Iceland, Norway or Switzerland.

The flight in question touched down with a delay of two hours and 58 minutes. The delay was more than three hours by the time the doors were opened.

While 250 euros is the compensation awarded for a short-haul flight delayed by three hours or more, the compensation applying to a flight of 1,500km (930 miles) or more is at least 400 euros.

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