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.

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