Thursday, 23 June 2016

Rules on compensation for flight downgrades - CJEU in C-255/5 Mennens

Mr Mennens' story might sound as much ado about nothing to many of us. He booked a series of flights with Emirates airlines, some in first and some in business class, and received a joint ticket specifying all flights and an all inclusive price for all of them, instead of individual prices for each flight. On his first flight from Dusseldorf to Dubai he was downgraded from first to business class (which lowered his expected flight comfort). As a result, he requested reimbursement of 75% of his ticket price, but Emirates reimbursed only 15% thereof.

The difference concerned interpretation of Article 10(2)(c) of Regulation No 261/2004. In case a passenger is downgraded on a flight outside the EU exceeding 3500 kilometres, 75% "of the price of the ticket" is to be reimbursed to the passenger. Mr Mennens requested payment of 75% of the total price mentioned on his ticket, while the airlines claimed that since he was downgraded only on one of many flights mentioned on the ticket, 75% reimbursement should be calculated considering the individual price of that one flight. Moreover, the airline claims that the percentage should apply to the price exclusive of taxes.

The CJEU notices that downgrading of passengers on one flight has no impact "on the services agreed upon for any other flights which the ticket permits that passenger to take" (Par. 24) and that "Article 10(2) of the Regulation aims to compensate a specific inconvenience, related to a given flight and not to the transport of the passenger as a whole" (Par. 28). This means that the passenger should not expect to receive reimbursement of 75% of the "overall price of the transport to which that ticket entitles him" (Par. 29).

How to know what is the individual price of the flight if it is not mentioned on the ticket? "The basis should be the part of the price of the ticket corresponding to the quotient resulting from the distance of the flight in question and the total distance which the passenger is entitled to travel". (Par. 30) Moreover, if the taxes and charges for the flight are not dependant on the class for which the ticket was issued, they should not be included in the calculation of the price of the flight, for which the reimbursement is to be given (Par. 38-42).

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