On 13 February the Court of Justice delivered an order in case C-606/19 flightright concerning jurisdiction over the claim for compensation brought against an air carrier in charge of the final leg of the journey divided into several legs, confirmed in a single booking.
The case involved two passengers who booked a journey from Hamburg (Germany) to San Sebastian (Spain) via London and Madrid, comprising of connecting flights operated by different carriers. The problem faced by the passengers was cancellation of the third flight of the journey, operated by Iberia. The question to be addressed was whether a claim against Iberia could be brought before the court in Hamburg. Pursuant to Article 7(1)(a) of Regulation No 1215/2012 (Brussels I bis) in matters relating to a contract, a person domiciled in a Member State may be sued in another Member State in the courts for the place of performance of the obligation in question. The subsequent provision explains that in the case of the provision of services the place of performance of the obligation in question is generally the place in a Member State where, under the contract, the services were provided or should have been provided.
It was already clear from the previous case law that both the place of departure and that of arrival must be considered as the principal places of the provision of services under a contract for carriage by air, which in turn gives the person bringing a claim for compensation on the basis of Regulation No 261/2004 a choice of jurisdiction. This is the case for both direct flights and, mutatis mutandis, situations in which the journey with connecting flights consisting of a confirmed single booking for the entire journey comprises two legs. In the latter case, the passenger can also choose to bring the claim before the court or tribunal which has territorial jurisdiction over the place of departure of the first leg or one having jurisdiction over the place of arrival of the second leg.
The present case dealt with a similar legal matter yet with relation to a multi-leg flight, operated by different carriers. According to the Court none of this affected the procedural position of the passenger experiencing a cancellation or delay. First of all, the Court stressed that a contract for carriage by air consists of a confirmed single booking for a three-leg journey establishes the obligation for an air carrier to carry a passenger from a point A to a point D. The place of performance, within the meaning Article 7(1) of Regulation No 1215/2012, can therefore be the place of departure of the first leg of the journey (point A).
What is more, the rule of special jurisdiction for matters relating to a contract set out in that provision does not require the conclusion of a contract between two persons, but the existence of a legal obligation freely consented to by one person in respect of another on which the claimant’s action is based. This is the case for an air carrier performing obligations under Passenger Rights Regulation No 261/2004 on behalf of another carrier having a contract with a passenger, in line with Article 3(5) of that regulation. Consequently, even though there were no complications on the first leg of the trip and the Hamburg-London flight was not operated by Iberia, the claim against the carrier could be brought in the Hamburg court.