BGH strengthens passenger rights - Flexible rescheduling without additional costs after flight cancellations

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In a recent ruling, the German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof or BGH) has reinforced the rights of air passengers when their flights are cancelled. According to the judgment of June 27, 2023 - Case No. X ZR 50/22, passengers now have the authority to determine when they wish to be rebooked on an alternative flight. Importantly, airlines are prohibited from charging any additional fees or costs for rescheduling onto the replacement flight.

Scope of the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation

The EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation, as outlined in Article 3, applies to flights departing from an airport within the European Union (EU), regardless of the airline's location. Additionally, it covers flights arriving at an EU airport if operated by an EU airline.

Support and options for passengers in case of flight cancellation

Under Article 5 of the Air Passenger Rights Regulation, passengers have certain entitlements in the event of flight cancellations. They can choose between a refund of the ticket price or alternative transportation (rebooking) provided by the airline. The recent BGH ruling confirms that passengers have the right to decide when they wish to be rebooked on an alternative flight. This flexibility is granted as long as there are available seats on the desired replacement flight. The airline is obligated to offer the rescheduling without charging any additional costs and under comparable travel conditions.

The EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation encompasses all flights departing from an EU airport, regardless of the airline's location. Similarly, flights arriving at an EU airport, operated by an EU airline, are also covered under the regulation. These rights apply even in exceptional circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the months of March and April 2020, numerous flights were canceled due to the pandemic. Passengers invoked their rights under the Air Passenger Rights Regulation and opted for rescheduling their flights to Easter 2021.

The Lufthansa, the operating airline, accepted the rescheduling but demanded additional costs from the passengers. Lufthansa argued that the charges were justified due to the rescheduling being for the following year and lacking an immediate temporal connection to the original travel plans.

The initial verdict in the first-instance court in Cologne favored the passengers, emphasizing the passengers' freedom to choose the new travel period for the replacement flight. However, the Higher Regional Court (OLG) in Cologne overturned the judgment in the second instance, referring to the provisions of the German Civil Code (BGB) governing contracts for services. The OLG held that a temporal connection between the canceled flight, the original flight, and the replacement flight was necessary, which was not present in this case.

The BGH allowed the revision and prohibited airlines from charging increased fees or conducting associated rebookings for replacement flights. The court emphasized that passengers should be able to reschedule their flights to a significantly later date without incurring additional costs, provided there are available seats (Judgment of June 27, 2023 - Case No. X ZR 50/22).

The BGH clarified that if passengers choose alternative transportation, it must be arranged according to their preferred date. Furthermore, a temporal connection to the original travel period is not required when passengers select an alternative flight for a different date; however, the replacement flight must still be operated by the same airline.

BGH's ruling strengthens the rights of air passengers and poses limitations on airlines

The BGH's ruling on June 27, 2023, strengthens air passenger rights and underscores the limitations imposed on airlines. Passengers possess rights that airlines must not disregard. The BGH reminds airlines of their obligation to honor contractual agreements.

Passengers now have a clearer path to assert their rights, knowing that if they have entered into a contract and paid for transportation with an airline but were not transported as agreed, they are entitled to be accommodated either by the airline itself or by another carrier, without any additional costs.

In summary, the BGH's decision empowers passengers and reinforces their rights, highlighting the importance of airlines fulfilling their contractual obligations. The EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation protects consumers and complements national laws in EU member states.

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About MYFLYRIGHT

MYFLYRIGHT is a legal tech company, specialized in the support of airline passengers affected by flight delays, flight cancellations, denied boarding, delayed or lost luggage and the refund of unused airline tickets. MYFLYRIGHT was founded 2016 in Hamburg, Germany. The company operates out of 3 offices, its headquarter in Hamburg and its branches in Prague, Czech Republic and Zaporizhia, Ukraine. Currently, MYFLYRIGHT employs a team of around 25 people working in Marketing, Operations, Legal, Customer Support and IT. The organization operates across 5 markets – Germany, United Kingdom, Romania, Austria, and Switzerland.

MYFLYRIGHT’s goal is to provide access to justice for all aviation passengers who experience irregularities in their flight transportation. Notably, 75% of all compensation requests submitted by passengers get rejected. Whereas, MYFLYRIGHT is able to successfully execute the applicable customer claims in more than 98% of cases at court.

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