Judgment delivered on 2 June 2017
Scandinavian Airlines System Denmark – Norway – Sweden
No compensation to passengers after delay of flight from Copenhagen to Washington for 3 hours and 43 minutes
On 12 September 2013, flight OY-KBM was scheduled to land in Washington Dulles International Airport. Due to storms over the airport and low fuel levels, the pilot decided to land in Philadelphia instead for safety reasons. This resulted in cancellation of the flight from Washington to Copenhagen by the same aircraft on the same day and a delay of the flight from Copenhagen to Washington the following day.
Under an EU Regulation from 2004, air passengers are entitled to a specified financial compensation if their flight is cancelled. According to the case law of the European Court of Justice, air passengers are also entitled to compensation under the above-mentioned rules if they arrive at their final destination three hours or more after the arrival time originally scheduled by the airline. However, the right to compensation does not apply if the cancellation occurs in extraordinary circumstances that could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.
The Supreme Court held that extraordinary circumstances had caused the aircraft to land in Philadelphia on 12 September 2013, and that the delay of the flight from Copenhagen to Washington on the next day was also due to extraordinary circumstances.
In addition, the Supreme Court ruled that the airline had shown that the delay from Copenhagen to Washington on 13 September 2013 could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court found in favour of the airline.
Both the District Court and the High Court had reached a different conclusion.