Posts

Lack of Airport Staff

Lack of airport staff as extraordinary circumstances

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in case C-405/23 that the lack of airport staff may constitute extraordinary circumstances within the meaning of Article 5 (3) of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004.

In the case at hand, a delay of more than 3 hours occurred, inter alia, because the loading of baggage onto the plane had been slowed down as there had been an insufficient number of staff of the airport operator responsible for that service. The question whether such lack of airport staff may constitute extraordinary circumstances was referred to the ECJ by the regional court of Cologne in its role as court of appeal.

The ECJ cited its prior ruling C-308/21 in which it was stated that general failures of an airport´s refueling system are not to be regarded as being intrinsically linked to the operation of the aircraft which completed the delayed flight. According to the ECJ, it is for the referring court to determine, whether the failures of the baggage loading operations due to a lack of airport staff must be regarded as a general failure in accordance with the cited case law. Regarding the criterion that extraordinary circumstances must also be beyond the air carrier´s control, the ECJ stated that it is for the referring court to determine whether the air carrier was able to exercise effective control over the operator of the airport.

It was further emphasized that extraordinary circumstances alone are not sufficient to relieve air carriers from their obligation to pay compensation to passengers. Air carriers must additionally state and proce that they took all reasonable measures appropriate to the situation.

Don’t hesitate to contact our Aviation Team to learn more about passsenger claims in Austria.

Russia Sanctions

Russia Sanctions: Mandatory “No Re-Export to Russia”-Clause

For several years, it has been crucial for individuals active in the aviation sector to be familiar with the sanctions imposed on Russia and the obligations established therein. The ever-changing nature of these obligations can make it difficult to keep track of them.

One new provision, in particular, should not be overlooked by aviation professionals: Article 12g of Regulation 833/2014. This provision mandates that, as of 20 March 2024, when selling, supplying, transferring, or exporting aircraft and jet fuel to a non-EU country, exporters must contractually prohibit re-exportation to Russia or for use in Russia. Additionally, exporters must ensure that the respective agreements include “adequate remedies” in case of a breach of this no re-export clause.

This means that every aircraft sale and purchase agreement, unless exempt under Article 12g, must now include language prohibiting the re-export of the sold aircraft to Russia or for use in Russia.

Additionally, if an exporter becomes aware that their third-country counterpart breaches the no re-export clause, they must inform the competent authority of the member state where they are resident or established.

No re-export clauses are not required in cases of exports to partner countries listed in Annex VIII of Regulation 833/2014, namely: the USA, Japan, the UK, South Korea, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland. Furthermore, this obligation does not apply to the execution of contracts concluded before 19 December 2023 until 20 December 2024 or until their expiry date, whichever is earlier.

Although exporters are free to choose the appropriate wording for a no re-export clause, the latest version of the FAQs concerning sanctions, published by European Commission, contains a template that parties are free to use.

Don´t hesitate to contact our Aviation Team to learn more about aviation related Russia sanctions in Austria and the European Union.

The legal basis and the transferability of passenger rights

The legal basis and the transferability of passenger rights

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in case C-11/23 that the entitlement to compensation for flight cancellations stems directly from Regulation (EC) 261/2004 and is independent from a contract of carriage the parties may have or may have not entered into. This clarifies that passengers have a right to compensation regardless of contractual stipulations, provided that they meet the conditions set forth in the Regulation.

Additionally, the ECJ stated that clauses within an air carrier´s General Conditions of Carriage (GCC) that limit a passenger´s options to transfer his rights granted by Regulation (EC) 261/2004 constitutes an impermissible restriction of his rights and is, therefore, null and void. The ECJ highlighted that in order to ensure a high level of protection for passengers, it is necessary to guarantee those affected by a cancellation the freedom to choose the most effective way to defend his or her right, including (where provided for by the relevant national law) to transfer his or her claim to a third party.

More detailed information on the use of GCC in Austria can be found in our article “General Conditions of Carriage in Austria“.

Don’t hesitate to contact our Aviation Team to learn more about passsenger claims in Austria.

Urteil zu ABB

Ruling on the GCC of a Hungarian Airline

The Austrian Supreme Court recently issued a new ruling (4 Ob 222/22h) on the General Conditions of Carriage (GCC) of a Hungarian airline, declaring numerous clauses therein as unlawful. This decision is the latest in a series of judgments against air carriers and their GCC.

The proceedings were initiated by the “Bundeskammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte”, an association authorized to litigate under the Austrian Consumer Protection Act and aimed to prohibit the airline from using certain clauses in their GCC. In its decision, spanning over 100 pages, the Austrian Supreme Court addressed numerous clauses, providing significant guidance for all air carriers operating in Austria.

Since authorized associations, especially the “Verein für Konsumenteninformation” (VKI) and the Bundeskammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte, can (and regularly do) file such lawsuits against airlines operating in Austria, it is advisable for air carriers to use this new ruling on GCC as an opportunity to review their own GCC. More detailed information on the standard procedures of associations authorized to file such lawsuits, the system of reviewing GCC in Austria, and the criteria applied can be found in our article “General Conditions of Carriage in Austria“.

The clauses whose use has now been prohibited by the Austrian Supreme Court include:

  • Liability exclusion for fragile luggage
  • Choice of law clause in favor of Hungarian law
  • The possibility of rebooking to an alternative means of transportation
  • Restriction of rights under Regulation (EC) 261/2004 (“Air Passenger Rights Regulation”)
  • Submission of compensation claims exclusively via the airline’s website

Our experienced Aviation Team is happy to answer your questions about the use of General Conditions of Carriage in Austria, review your GCC to reduce the risk of legal proceedings, and represent you in court.

The necessity to suffer a loss of time to receive compensation

The necessity to suffer a loss of time to receive compensation

In its recent rulings on cases C-474/22 and C-54/23, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) clarified that passengers are not entitled to a compensation payment in cases when their booked flight is delayed by more than 3 hours if they did not actually suffer a loss of time themselves, especially if they did not present themselves for check-in.

Traditionally, passengers whose flights arrive over three hours after the scheduled arrival time have been entitled to the same compensation passengers of cancelled flights receive. This principle was established in the landmark Sturgeon ruling (C-402/07 and C-432/07). However, the recent ECJ rulings demonstrate that there are still differences between flights that are cancelled and those that are significantly delayed.

The cases in question both involved flights from Düsseldorf (Germany) to Palma de Mallorca (Spain) where the operating carriers announced significant delays. In case C-474/22, upon learning of the delay, the passenger chose not to board the flight and later assigned his rights to flightright, which then sued the carrier for compensation. In case C-54/23, another passenger opted to book an alternative flight, resulting in an arrival delay of less than three hours.

The ECJ ruled that in both instances, the passengers are not eligible for compensation. This decision was based on Article 3 of Regulation 261/2004, which sets forth that the regulation only applies if passengers – except in cases of cancellations – present themselves for check-in in a timely manner. The passengers argued that this criterion should not apply in situations where the operating carrier had already announced that the flight would be delayed more than 3 hours, since such significant delays must be treated like cancellations.

However, the ECJ did not follow this reasoning ant stated that its landmark decision in the Sturgeon case was based on the concept that passengers enduring a delay of three hours or more suffer an irreversible loss of time and, consequently, a level of inconvenience comparable to that of passengers on cancelled flights. According to the ECJ’s rationale, compensation is a redress for this loss of time. Therefore, since the passengers in the recent cases either did not board their flights or managed to reduce their delay through alternative bookings, they did not experience the same loss of time and are, thus, not entitled to compensation.

However, it’s important to note that these passengers might still have other rights under Regulation 261/2004 or applicable law, such as ticket reimbursement or damages equivalent to the costs of the alternative flights they booked.

Don´t hesitate to contact our Aviation Team to learn more about passenger claims in Austria.

Denied Boardings

Recent court practice on denied boardings

On 26 October 2023, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued a new ruling on the interpretation of Articles 4 and 5 of Regulation 261/2004 in connection with denied boardings (case C-238/22).

In this ruling, the ECJ determined that an air carrier that informs a passenger in advance that, against the passenger´s will, they will be denied boarding for a flight with a confirmed reservation, must compensate that passenger, even if the passenger does not present themselves for boarding.

In the case at hand, the air carrier denied transporting the passenger on the inbound flight because they had not taken the outbound flight, a common practice based on so-called “No-Show Clauses”.[1] The ECJ interpreted this application of a No-Show-Clause as a denied boarding, disregarding the interpretative guidelines on Regulation 261/2004 published by the EU Commission on 10 June 2016.

Furthermore, the ECJ ruled that Article 5(1)(c)(i) of Regulation 261/2004 does not apply to cases in which passengers are denied boarding. Therefore, the air carrier must provide compensation payments (Article 7) to passengers, even if they informed the passengers at least two weeks in advance that they will refuse to carry them.

On 11 July 2023, the Austrian Regional Court Korneuburg faced a case (22 R 120/23m) with the following circumstances:

An air carrier was confronted with a shortage of security staff at its homebase (LHR) in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in difficulties in handling a sudden increase in passenger numbers during the travel boom following the end of COVID-related travel restrictions. As a response, the air carrier decided to “cancel” several flights due to the challenges in performing the required security checks on the passengers.

The “canceled” flights were, in fact, performed by the air carrier, using the planned time slots, flight numbers and destinations, but with cargo only – without passengers on board.

The Regional Court Korneuburg, serving as the court of appeal, determined that such cases do not constitute a cancellation within the meaning of Article 5 of Regulation 261/2004 but rather constitute denied boardings within the meaning of Article 4.

Additionally, the court emphasized that, in cases of denied boardings, it is irrelevant if the reasons for such denied boardings could constitute extraordinary circumstances within the meaning of Article 5. According to the applicable Article 4, air carriers are always obligated to immediately compensate passengers in accordance with Article 7 if they are denied boarding against their will.

According to Article 2(j) “denied boarding” means a refusal to carry passengers on a flight, except where there are reasonable grounds to deny them boarding, such as reasons of health, safety or security, or inadequate travel documentation. The court concluded (citing ECJ case C‑321/11, 32) that a reason for a denied boarding must be attributable to the passenger who is being denied boarding.

Since the reason for the air carrier´s decision not to transport passengers on the flight in question was not in any way attributable to the passenger, there were no reasonable grounds within the meaning of Article 2(j) for the denied boarding. Consequently, the Regional Court Korneuburg ruled in the passenger´s favor and ordered the air carrier to pay compensation to the passenger.

Don´t hesitate to contact our Aviation Team to learn more about passenger claims in Austria.

 

The Employment of Staff of Foreign Airlines in Austria

The Employment of Staff of Foreign Airlines in Austria

For most airlines it is natural to operate internationally. In Europe, international air traffic is particularly dense due to the manifold economic interdependencies between its countries, the personal, cross-border connections within its populace as well as the extensive liberalisation of air traffic, including the granting of freedoms of the air in recent decades.

To ensure that operations run as smoothly as possible, staff are needed not only at the airline’s headquarters, but also at the individual destinations flown by the airline. Airlines often outsource numerous tasks to external companies, while employing own station managers to organise and coordinate the work done by third-party providers and the airline’s employees. However, the airline’s commitment to the particular market or base can also be more intensive and range from employing the foreign airline’s own staff in Austria, to establishing a branch office or even setting up an Austrian subsidiary entity of its own.

In the following we would like to give an overview of what needs to be considered by foreign airlines when employing staff other than crew members (e.g., ground staff) in Austria. There are certain special rules applicable to the employment of crew members in Austria, which will not be covered in this article. Although the following overview has the “standard case” of a foreign airline as its point of departure, it will prove relevant also for other foreign aviation businesses – especially so in the area of business aviation.

Work and residence permit

When employing staff from non-EU countries in Austria, a residence and work permit issued in accordance with the Settlement and Residence Act (“NAG”) and the Employment of Foreign Nationals Act (“AuslBG”) is generally required. Residence and work permits are usually issued by the administrative authorities having jurisdiction over the future Austrian residence of the foreign employee following a positive assessment of the employee’s qualifications and their employment conditions by the Austrian Public Employment Service (“AMS”).

The most common form of a residence and work permit is the so-called “Red-White-Red Card”. The decision as to whether a worker may be employed in Austria depends initially on the authority’s assessment of the employee on the basis of a predefined, qualification-based points system. The Red-White-Red Card is available in several variants, with the “Red-White-Red Card for Other Key Personnel” offering most flexibility with regard to its requirements and possible employment options and is generally suitable for employees with a university degree as well as for employees without proof of higher education who acquired their knowledge and skills “on the job” in the course of their professional experience. The Red-White-Red Card is conditional upon the employee having adequate professional experience, qualifications, and sufficient language skills in German or English as well as receiving a sufficient salary (2023: EUR 2,925 gross per month) from the (future) employer in Austria.

In the case of temporary intra-corporate transfers of employees (i.e. intra-corporate transferees, ICTs), special, more favourable provisions (based on the EU Directive 2014/66/EU) apply. ICTs are employees with the nationality of a non-EU state who are temporarily transferred by their employer with its registered office in a non-EU state in the course of their employment relationship as managers, specialists or as trainees to one or more branches of their employer in the EU (or those of an EU company being part of the same group of undertakings as the employer). An ICT residence title for “managers” will be suitable for employees holding a senior position, who primarily direct the management of the host entity or of one of its departments or subdivisions. The ICT card for “specialists” is particularly suitable for persons who have specialised knowledge relevant to the fields of activity, procedures or administration of the receiving entity and a high level of qualification for certain tasks or activities requiring specific technical knowledge. The ICT card for “trainee employees”, on the other hand, requires that the employee have a university degree and be transferred to the Austrian branch for the purpose of their career development or further (sector-specific, technical or methodological) training. Thus, when choosing the residence title, the employer has to consider not only the employee’s personal, educational, and professional background, but also the needs of the Austrian host entity. These must be presented and argued accordingly in the application for the ICT title, which often causes difficulties in practice.

Citizens from EU member states, EEA states and Switzerland have free access to the Austrian labour market and therefore do not need any authorisation from the labour market authorities to take up employment in Austria. In this respect, they are on an equal footing with Austrian citizens.

When employing a foreign employee (whether on the basis of a work permit or not), the employer must comply with Austrian wage and working conditions as well as the applicable social security regulations. Failure to do so may result in the authorities prohibiting the employment and revoking the residence permit and work permit issued to the foreign employee (if one was required).

Applicable law

According to the EU Rome I Regulation (593/2008/EC), which is applicable in Austria, individual employment contracts are governed by the law of the state in which or from which the employee habitually carries out their work in performance of the employment contract. The temporary performance of work in another state does not change this. For crew members, the usual place of work will usually be their home base.

However, the parties are also free to agree on the applicability of another law to the employment relationship. Here, however, a qualification must be observed whereby this choice of law must not result in the employee being deprived of the protection that would have been granted to them by the mandatory law applicable in the absence of a choice of law.

This means, in short, that although it is possible to stipulate in the employment contract of an employee who habitually performs their work in or from Austria that their employment relationship should be governed by foreign law (for example, the law of the country in which the airline is based), the mandatory Austrian provisions of labour law must nonetheless be observed.

The provisions of (mandatory) collective labour law, such as those regulating the possibility of electing a works council, concluding works agreements and challenging dismissals, will apply as soon as the foreign airline establishes an operational unit (“Betrieb”) in Austria. A choice of law is not possible here.

Which issues require particular attention in terms of labour law?

Austrian labour law is relatively complex and characterised by the existence of various legal sources organised in a hierarchy of norms. Employers have to observe not only statutes and the individual employment contracts, but also the so-called collective agreements (contracts concluded between the collective representatives of employers’ and those of the employees) and as well as so-called works agreements (if a works council exists).

Of particular relevance in everyday working life are the provisions on working time (especially maximum working hours and overtime pay), the regulations on periods in which employees are unfit for work, paid and unpaid leave, as well as the regulations on minimum wages. Although there is virtually no statutory minimum wage in Austria, there exists a plethora of collective agreements covering a fairly wide spectrum of businesses, including foreign airlines, which in turn stipulate minimum wages. These minimum wages must also be observed by employers not based in Austria (and falling outside of the scope of the collective agreements) due to the mandatory provisions of the Wage and Social Dumping Prevention Act (“LSD-BG“).

Furthermore, the (foreign) employee must also comply with the provisions of Austrian social and (income) tax law, which are both fairly complex and mandatory.

The Collective Agreement for Foreign Airlines in Austria

For foreign airlines, the Collective agreement for white-collar employees and other staff of foreign airlines in Austria is of particular day-to-day relevance.

Although this collective agreement was primarily negotiated for sales and station staff, it now applies to all employees of foreign airlines working in Austria (including crew members). The only exceptions are those employees who have been transferred to Austria and whose contracts of employment are subject to foreign employment law, as well as executive employees.

This collective agreement contains various regulations that must be observed by foreign airlines. These include, in particular, provisions on overtime pay, normal working hours and, importantly, minimum wages. Accordingly, employers have to classify their employees according to a scheme laid down in the collective agreement and pay them at least the minimum wage set out in the remuneration scheme set therein – a task which is not always easy (not least due to the genesis of the collective agreement and its wide scope of application). Underpayment can not only lead to civil law claims by employees under their employment contracts, but also to draconian administrative fines of up to EUR 400,000 under the Austrian Wage and Social Dumping Prevention Act.

Furthermore, the collective agreement also stipulates that employees are entitled to a holiday allowance in the amount of one month’s basic salary as well as a Christmas bonus in the amount of the November salary in addition to their regular monthly salary. Such special payments are customarily stipulated in  Austrian collective agreements, which is why in Austria it is generally said that employees receive 14 salaries per year.

Posting Employees to Austria

In some cases, foreign airlines prefer to send to Austria staff already employed by them at their headquarters in managerial positions or as specialists in a particular field. In this case, the Collective Agreement for Employees and Other Workers of Foreign Airlines will not apply if the employment contract is still subject to foreign employment law. This does not mean, however, that Austrian labour law is entirely inapplicable or that there are no mandatory regulations with regard to minimum wage. Indeed, the provisions of the Austrian Wage and Social Dumping Combating Act (“LSD-BG“) must still be observed.

Accordingly, there are strict reporting and documentation obligations for all postings to Austria. The reporting and residence law obligations vary depending on whether the posting employers and the posted employees are citizens of the EU, EEA, Switzerland or of other third countries.

Posting companies based in the EU, the EEA or Switzerland must report postings of third-country nationals to the Central Co-Ordinating Agency (ZKO) of the Anti-Fraud Office before the planned commencement of work by the posted employee. Subsequently, the Central Co-Ordinating Agency forwards such notifications to the Austrian Public Employment Service (AMS), which must issue, within two weeks of receipt of the notification, an “EU posting confirmation” if the prerequisites for the posting are met or, if the prerequisites are not met, prohibit the posting. In addition to the EU posting confirmation, the third-country national employee must also have a valid visa or (in the case of postings for more than 6 months) a suitable residence permit, which must be applied for separately with the competent authority.

If the posting company (employer) is based in a third country, the posting of third-country nationals requires a posting permit or an employment permit (depending on the duration of the posting), which must be applied for directly with the AMS. A posting permit can be issued to posted third-country nationals for a maximum duration of 4 months provided that the work for which they are deployed does not last longer than six months.  If the work lasts longer than six months or the employment of the posted employee lasts longer than four months, an employment permit must be applied for instead of a posting permit. In these cases, too, the third-country national must have a valid visa or a suitable residence title in Austria, which, again, must be applied for separately.

Furthermore, the foreign employer must also comply with the provisions of Austrian social law, according to which, depending on the circumstances of the posting, either proof of existing insurance in the employee’s country of habitual employment or registration with the Austrian social insurance system is required. This issue often leads to problems in practice and the solution to it will depend above all on whether there are social law agreements concluded between Austria and the country of habitual employment of the posted employee. In the case of a posting within the EU, a confirmation (“A1 certificate”) must be applied for from the competent social security institution of the posting country. The A1 certificate is a document which states in a binding manner that only the social security laws of the posting country (and not Austrian social security law) are applicable to the posted employee (for the duration of the posting). The A1 certificate is therefore an important instrument for the foreign employer-company which it can employ to mitigate its social security liabilities in a relatively uncomplicated manner.

However, it must be pointed out that during their posting to Austria, the posted will enjoy certain rights under Austrian labour law. For example, they are entitled to at least the same remuneration as is stipulated (by statute or collective agreements) for comparable work done for comparable employers in Austria (including the holiday allowance and the Christmas bonus). Thus, the minimum wages laid down in the collective agreements are also applicable to posted workers by operation of the Austrian Wage and Social Dumping Combating Act (LSD-BG). The working time limits and minimum rest periods applicable in Austria must also be observed and the paid leave provided for under Austrian law must be granted.

In case of more detailed questions that can easily arise in connection with the complex issues related to the employment of staff of foreign airlines in Austria, our Aviation Team is happy to assist and offer further advice.

 

Click here for the pdf version of our article on the employment of staff of foreign airlines in Austria.

General Conditions of Carriage in Austria

General Conditions of Carriage in Austria

Besides the handling of Passenger Claims and the challenges related thereto, airlines are often confronted with complaints from consumer protection organizations regarding their General Conditions of Carriage (GCC). In Austria, especially the Verein für Konsumenteninformation (“VKI”), is very active in this regard and routinousely examines General Terms and Conditions of several companies, including GCC used by airlines that are active in Austria.

If an airline´s GCC contains clauses that the VKI deems to be unlawful, it will request the airline to sign a cease and desist declaration preventing it from using these specific clauses and to pay a contractual penalty to the VKI for every breach.

If the airline refuses to sign such declarations, the VKI files a lawsuit demanding the stop of the use of certain clauses and the publishing of the ruling against the airline in Austria´s most read newspaper at the airline´s expense.

During its proceedings, the competent court assesses every clause of the challenged GCC based on the following criteria:

Unusual clauses that are surprising and disadvantageous

§ 864a of the Austrian Civil Code states that in General Terms and Conditions (like GCC) clauses of an unusual content that are surprising and disadvantageous for the other party are not regarded to be part of contracts based on these GTC.

However, such clauses can be valid if the party using them in its General Terms and Conditions has specifically notified the other party of their use.

Grossly disadvantageous clauses

§ 879 (3) of the Austrian Civil Code states that clauses contained in General Terms and Conditions which do not specify one of the main services to be provided by either party shall be void if they are grossly disadvantageous for one party.

Austrian courts interpret the exception set forth regarding main services very narrowly, which leads to the provision being applicable to basically all clauses that do not concern the individual description of the type, scope and quality of the main services. The assessment whether a clause is grossly disadvantageous is, in general, being made by comparison with the codified provisions of Austrian civil law together with a balancing of the parties´ interests.

Intransparent clauses

The Austrian Consumer Protection Act sets forth several types of clauses that are not binding for consumers. § 6 (3) of this Act additionally stipulates that clauses contained in General Terms and Conditions shall be invalid if they are intransparent. This is, in particular, the case if the wording of such clauses is unclear, if their content is not easily comprehensible to the consumer or if they incorrectly present the average consumer´s legal position.

Collection of clauses that were deemed to be violating Austrian law

Since there have already been numerous court proceedings regarding GCC in Austria, we have an extensive collection of clauses that Austrian courts deemed to be violating Austrian law. This includes especially the following clauses:

  • No-Show Clauses[1] that are not limited to passengers intentionally circumventing the ticketing system[2],[3],[4]
  • Complaints from passengers are only accepted if the are made via e-mail, an online form or fax[5]
  • Scheduled departure times may change after the booking (without precising under which circumstances)[6]
  • Ticket refunds shall only be paid to the person or travel agency that booked the flight or only to the bank or credit card account that was used to pay the ticket fare[7]
  • Transport is denied if the flight coupon is severely damaged or altered[8]
  • Complaints must be made by the passenger himself and he must wait at lest 28 days for a response before instructing third parties to assert his claims on his behalf[9]
  • Passengers must pay an additional fee in cases of an offline check-in at the airport[10]
  • Deadline of two years for compensation claims regarding damages of any kind[11]
  • Claims must only be assigned to other passengers of the same booking or travel group[12]
  • Clauses that incompletely inform a passenger about his rights under the Montreal Convention or Regulation 261/2004[13],[14]

The consequences of a clause being deemed to be in violation of Austrian law are, on the one hand, that the airline loses the proceedings and is, therefore, obliged to stop using this clause, to reimburse the other party´s legal fees and to pay for a publication of the ruling in an Austrian newspaper. On the other hand, the clause is regarded to be null and void, which means that passengers are not bound by it.

Airlines must stay vigilant

Due to the routinely reviews of General Conditions of Carriage by consumer protection agencies, airlines have to pay specific attention to the content of their GCC when they are active in Austria in order to avoid court proceedings, costs and negative publicity.

Our Aviation Team at Weisenheimer is experienced in handling such cases and happy to answer your questions related to the use of General Conditions of Carriage in Austria, to review your GCC to mitigate the risk of legal proceedings and to represent you in court proceedings.

Click here for the pdf version of our article on General Conditions of Carriage in Austria.

 

[1] You can find our more detailed analysis of No-Show Clauses in Austria based on court proceedings our Aviation Team was involved in by clicking here.

[2] Brussels Airlines, Higher Regional Court Vienna, 10.07.2019, 129 R 56/19g.

[3] KLM, Higher regional Court Vienna, 11.06.2019, 1 R 73/19s.

[4] Lufthansa, Austrian Supreme Court, 20.04.2021, 4 Ob 63/21z.

[5] Laudamotion, Higher Regional Court Vienna, 23.2.2021, 2 R 48/20y.

[6] Laudamotion, Austrian Supreme Court, 18.03.2022, 6 Ob 127/21a.

[7] SWISS, Higher Regional Court Vienna, 04.11.2022, 2 R 106/22f.

[8] Lufthansa, Austrian Supreme Court, 20.04.2021, 4 Ob 63/21z.

[9] Laudamotion, Higher Regional Court Vienna, 23.2.2021, 2 R 48/20y.

[10] Laudamotion, Austrian Supreme Court, 27.02.2020, 8 Ob 107/19x.

[11] Lufthansa, Austrian Supreme Court, 20.04.2021, 4 Ob 63/21z.

[12] Laudamotion, Higher Regional Court Vienna, 23.2.2021, 2 R 48/20y.

[13] Lufthansa, Austrian Supreme Court, 20.04.2021, 4 Ob 63/21z.

[14] Laudamotion, Austrian Supreme Court, 18.03.2022, 6 Ob 127/21a.

Aircraft Registration Q&A

Aircraft Registration in Austria: Q&A

The Austrian Aircraft Registry has enjoyed popularity with both aircraft operators and aircraft owners for quite some time now. In total, more than 1,800 aircraft and helicopters are already registered in Austria. Judging by the number of inquiries on aircraft registration in Austria we are currently receiving at Weisenheimer Legal, the number of registrations is very likely to increase in the coming months.

In order to assist with your considerations and evaluations, we have briefly summarized the most frequently asked questions regarding aircraft registration in Austria in this Q&A:

  • Who is responsible for the registration of an aircraft in Austria? The aircraft owner or the aircraft operator*?

In principle, only the operator (as holder of the aircraft) can procure the registration. This requires – where the operator is not also the legal owner – the consent of the owner. The consent is given by transferring the holdership of the aircraft to the operator. In practice, a form provided by Austro Control must be used for this purpose.

  • What are the nationality requirements for the operator and the owner?

In short (simplified): The operator must be established under the laws of a member state of the EU and have its registered office in a member state of the EU. If the operator does not have an address for service of process in Austria, they must appoint an Austrian agent for this purpose. We at Weisenheimer Legal have long experience acting as process agent for our international clients and can therefore offer you competent and reliable handling of your registration process in Austria.

The aircraft owner need not meet any particular nationality requirements, provided that they transfer the holdership of the aircraft to an operator (holder) who meets the previously described requirements.

  • In what form must the documents be presented for registration?

Normally, copies of documents that can be sent to Austro Control by e-mail are sufficient. In some cases, certified translations of original documents are required. Documents in English are mostly accepted.

  • Can pledges on aircraft be registered in Austria?

No, this is not possible. This being said, we will be happy to advise you on the best practice of creating pledges on aircraft.

  • Do contracts between the operator and the owner need to be disclosed?

No. The agreement between the operator and the owner need not be disclosed; it is sufficient to submit a signed form confirming the transfer of holdership, as provided by Austro Control.

It is not necessary to enter into a lease agreement or a holdership agreement. However, in some cases it is recommended to conclude a holdership agreement in order to facilitate the process.

  • Can the owner deregister the aircraft without the operator’s consent?

No. Only the operator can deregister the aircraft. Therefore, it is also recommended that the operator (acting as holder) issues a Power of Attorney for Deregistration in favor of the owner.

  • What proof does the owner have that he is known to Austro Control as the owner of the aircraft?

Only the operator is named on the Certificate of Registration. Unfortunately, the official translation of the “operator” (holder) on the Certificate of Registration as “Name of Owner” is somewhat misleading. At the request of the operator, Austro Control issues a confirmation to the owner stating that the owner of the aircraft is known to it as the legal owner and that the owner named on the Certificate of Registration is not to be regarded as the legal owner.

 

Click here for the pdf version of our Q&A on Aircraft Registration in Austria.

 

*In connection with aircraft registrations, the term “holder” and not “operator” is used in Austria. In this Q&A, the term “operator” is used for ease of reading, but it is to be understood in the sense of “aircraft holder” and not in the sense of Regulation (EU) 965/2012. In order to be able to act as “holder” of an aircraft, neither an operating license nor an AOC is required.

First aid as accident under the Montreal Convention

First aid as accident under the Montreal Convention

In its ruling C-510/21 on 6 July 2023, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided that inadequate first aid on board an aircraft following an accident under the Montreal Convention must be regarded as forming part of that accident.

Facts of the case

The case, once again brought before the ECJ by an Austrian court (this time: the Austrian Supreme Court), involved Austrian Airlines.

On 18 December 2016, the claimant was travelling from Tel Aviv to Vienna on a flight operated by Austrian Airlines. During this flight, hot coffee was spilled on the claimant, resulting in injuries. Subsequently, first aid was administered to the claimant on board the aircraft.

In 2019, after the expiration of the time limit specified in Article 35 of the applicable Montreal Convention, the claimant filed a lawsuit against Austrian Airlines in Vienna. The claimant argued that the inadequate first aid should not be considered an accident under Article 17 of the Montreal Convention, and therefore, his claims for damages should be governed solely by Austrian national law. Consequently, the three-year time limit stipulated by Austrian national law would apply, and his claims would not be time-barred.

Questions raised by the Austrian Supreme Court

(1) Is first aid which is administered on board an aircraft following an accident within the meaning of Article 17(1) of the [Montreal Convention] and which leads to further bodily injury to the passenger which can be distinguished from the actual consequences of the accident to be regarded, together with the triggering event, as a single accident?

(2) If Question 1 is answered in the negative: Does Article 29 of [the Montreal Convention] preclude a claim for compensation for damage caused by the administration of first aid where that claim is brought within the limitation period under national law but outside the period for bringing actions which is laid down in Article 35 of [that] convention?

Legal outcome

The ECJ determined that it is not always possible to attribute damage to an isolated event when that damage is the result of a series of interdependent events. Therefore, when intrinsically linked events occur successively, they should be considered as constituting a single accident under the Montreal Convention.

Based on this interpretation, the ECJ concluded that inadequate first aid provided on board an aircraft following an accident under the Montreal Convention must be considered as part of that accident.

Due to this interpretation, it was not necessary for the ECJ to answer the second question. We are still awaiting a ruling in which the ECJ provides a clear opinion on the scope of the Montreal Convention´s exclusivity principle.

Don´t hesitate to contact our Aviation Team to learn more about passenger claims in Austria.