In a decision of importance to any employer whose staff fly abroad on business, the European Court of Justice has ruled for the first time that air carriers’ liability to pay compensation in respect of flight delays extends not just to passengers but to the organisations for which they work.
The Lithuanian Government’s Special Investigation Service (SIS) had purchased flights to carry two of its agents from Vilnius to Baku via two connecting flights. One of those flights was delayed so that a connection was missed and the agents arrived at their destination one day late.
The SIS incurred various expenses as a result of the delay but the airline concerned refused to pay compensation. That was on the basis that the Montreal Convention – which since 1989 has governed compensation payable by international airlines for delays and bodily injury – only conferred rights on passengers, as ‘natural persons’, and not on organisations.
In upholding the SIS’s arguments in a preliminary ruling, the Court found that, on a correct interpretation of the convention, an air carrier which has concluded a contract of international carriage with a passenger’s employer is liable to that employer for any damage or additional expense incurred due to flight delays.