Where a flight is three hours or more late in departing – even if it reaches its destination less than three hours later than planned – passengers are automatically entitled to €250 compensation for short-haul or €600 for long-haul flights, and the airline is obliged by international law to provide refreshments or vouchers for the same, although the sum is not stipulated, and overnight accommodation if the plane time slots make this necessary.
Generally, as these compensation sums are standard, reclaiming them is a painless, administrative exercise handled by mainstream customer service departments, but travellers due to fly between Paris and Venice on an EasyJet flight on October 24 were denied payment after their return to the French capital was delayed by three hours and seven minutes.
They were told they had to provide their original boarding passes to be able to claim their standard €250.
The airline did not deny the flight had been over three hours late in taking off, but would not pay up without sight of the boarding passes, so the affected passengers applied to a court in Paris.
French judges sought clarification from the ECJ, which confirmed that Article 7 of European regulation 261/2004 found easyJet to be in breach of its legal duties.
The ruling states that an airline cannot refuse payment solely on the basis of the passengers’ not having produced proof of checking in unless it is able to provide clear evidence that the traveller never boarded the aircraft at all.
If the airline has indeed transported passengers with a confirmed booking, it is understood, by default, that said passengers have complied with the requirement to present themselves for check-in, so proof of this already exists without extra evidence – in the form of a boarding pass – having to be requested.
The Spanish-based association Reclamador de Vuelos (‘Flight Reclaimer’) says the ECJ verdict is binding in all European courts.
Its communications manager Javier López says: “This is a great chance for passengers who, on many occasions, throw their boarding passes in the bin as soon as they get off the plane, or these passes, where not in paper format, ‘disappear’ from the airline’s app on the passenger’s phone once the date of the flight has passed.
“This is a very common situation – airlines trying to ‘pull a fast one’ when a passenger claims compensation for a delay, attempting to wriggle out of it where there is no boarding pass to show.
“But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep your boarding pass, or a copy of it – despite the ECJ verdict, a boarding pass can still provide very valuable information in proving your case in the event of any dispute.
“We always advise affected passengers to keep theirs, and take a copy of it if they send the original by post.”