FRANKFURT - The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Thursday that an airplane's arrival time is the moment at which its doors are opened, giving passengers greater clarity about when they are entitled to claim compensation for delays.
The ECJ - the European Union's highest court - had said two years ago that EU airlines must pay passengers compensation if their flight is delayed by more than three hours, but confusion over how to measure the delay prompted another lawsuit.
A traveller later sued Lufthansa's budget carrier Germanwings after it refused to pay him 250 euros ($328.60) compensation for a delay he said totalled more than three hours. Germanwings maintained his flight had arrived only two hours and 58 minutes behind schedule.
The ECJ ruled that a flight was still seen to be ongoing so long as passengers were confined within an aircraft, and therefore subject to restrictions on communication with the outside world that prevent them from carrying out their personal and business activities. "The Court concludes that the 'arrival time', which is used to determine the length of the delay to which passengers on a flight have been subject, corresponds to the time at which at least one of the doors of the aircraft is opened, the assumption being that, at that moment, the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft," it said.
The case was C-452/13, Germanwings GmbH v Ronny Henning.