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EU court: Biting passengers does not oblige airlines to pay compensation for delays

The reason for the delay was not deemed to be under the company’s control.

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6/11/20, 12:15 PM CET

Updated 6/11/20, 12:38 PM CET

An airline does not have to pay compensation to passengers for a delayed flight if that delay is caused by a passenger’s unruly behavior — in this case, biting another passenger — the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled Thursday.

The case concerned a passenger traveling from Brazil to Norway via Portugal. An incident on the first leg of the trip in which a passenger bit a fellow traveler prompted the flight to be diverted, causing a delay of more than four hours.

EU air passenger rights law requires airlines to pay compensation of up to €600 for cancellations or delays beyond three hours, but only if the court determines that the delay was under the airline’s control.

In this case, the court ruled the behavior of the passenger was an “extraordinary circumstance.”

Referring to the biting incident and the crew’s struggles to calm the passenger down, the court said: “Such behaviour is not, in principle, under the control of the air carrier, since, first, the behaviour of a passenger and his reactions to the crew’s requests are not foreseeable, and, secondly, on board an aircraft, both the commander and the crew have only limited means of controlling such behaviour.”

The court added that rerouting the delayed passenger on the next available flight — which TAP Air Portugal, the airline in question, did — was the best course of action in the circumstances.

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