For several years now, we have been assisting our clients in handling claims related to Regulation (EC) 261/2004, better known as “Passenger Claims”. With our many long-established connections to the aviation sector, we specialize in providing first-class support to our airline partners.
Which cases are we mostly handling?
Normally, passenger claims are mainly for compensation under Article 7 of Regulation 261/2004. However, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting massive increase of flight cancellations, the number of ticket refunds cases increased substantially. This being said, we represent airlines in connection with other claims, too, such as passenger claims for damages under the Montreal regime and claims arising from the provisions of Austrian law.
What is challenging about passenger claims?
Although the claimed amounts are usually rather low, the complexity of the cases and the effort required of airlines defending them is often quite substantial. While it is often difficult to explain the very specific procedures and terms (e.g. Oplogs) to the courts, it is necessary to do so, in order to convince judges that the airline took all reasonable measures to avoid cancellation or delay. Recently, we’re observing a trend among Austrian judges – undoubtedly encouraged by the rather strict preliminary rulings of the ECJ – to demand increasingly detailed explanations of the extraordinary circumstances and, above all, of the reasonable measures taken by the airline in each case.
As legal representatives of airlines, our task is to identify missing information and to try to obtain it not only from our clients, but also through our own active research of the METAR and flight data, for example. In addition to that, we of course continuously monitor the newest developments of the case law in the area of Passenger Claims and constantly improve our argumentation.
How do we cooperate with our clients?
Bearing in mind the special challenges posed by Passenger Claims, we usually offer a customized fee agreement for each client. Such agreements may cover all Passenger Claims (for a monthly lump sum) or be limited to handling individual cases (for a lump sum per case). Lastly, some clients choose to request our advice on individual issues on the basis of an hourly rate.
Especially at the beginning of the cooperation with a new client, we make sure to determine which claim handling procedure would be most suitable and efficient for the client and we are also happy to organize workshops for our clients’ claim handling team. This is because a well-trained team and optimized processes are the basis of successful and efficient claim handling.
Based on our cooperation in the area of Passenger Claims, our clients also regularly seek our assistance in other areas as well, including baggage and cargo claims, aircraft damage, matters of labor law as well as residence and work permits. We offer customized fee agreements also with regard to these issues.
What are the chances of succeeding from the airlines‘ point of view?
As an airline, you are always fighting an „uphill battle“ when it comes to Passenger Claims. For this reason, we recommend fighting only in those cases where it is really worth your while – not least in order to create as many positive precedents as possible and to avoid creating negative precedents in Austria.
If – based on the available evidence – a case must be classified as “weak”, reacting too slowly or incorrectly will only cause unnecessary costs, which often exceed the claimed compensation itself. With an experienced and agile legal team at your side, such costs can easily be avoided.
How do we efficiently handle “mass claims”?
Our experience shows that a combination of speed, flexibility and know-how is essential, especially when it comes to Passenger Claims. It is often necessary to decide very quickly how to proceed in a large number of cases. Quickly handling these cases is especially crucial in order to avoid unnecessary legal proceedings and the costs associated with them.
In order to be able to handle the cases in a high-quality and yet efficient manner, you need a specialized and well-coordinated team. At Weisenheimer, we rely on a young and very committed team with established and well-proven procedures, who make sure to keep constant and close contact with our clients‘ claim handling teams. Lawyers and paralegals work closely together and use automated processes in order to handle cases as efficiently as possible, not unlike many claim agencies such as Flightright and Fairplane. Of course, with the difference that the representation of airlines is associated with significantly more effort compared to the representation of passengers.
Our Passenger Claims team is supervised and supported by Weisenheimer partner Martina Flitsch, who has been following the development of Passenger Claims for more than 25 years, first as in-house counsel and later as head of the legal department of an airline and subsequently as an attorney. Based on her long experience, Martina is very familiar with the airlines´ needs and thus can ensure that the cooperation between our team and the airline meets the highest standards.