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BGH Judgment: Airlines cannot charge extra costs for replacement flights

In a landmark ruling, the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof or BGH) has determined that airlines are not entitled to demand the costs of alternative transportation from passengers who had to accept the cancellation of their flights. Passengers can now decide when they want to take a free replacement flight, provided there are sufficient seats available.

Claudia Brosche, an expert in passenger rights at Flightright, commented on the judgment, which is significantly attributed to the consumer association.

"Air travelers are already significantly disadvantaged by the cancellation of their original flight. The fact that Lufthansa offered rescheduling for a later date only at an additional cost is outrageous. Even before the BGH ruling, Lufthansa was acting in complete contradiction to existing laws, especially the Air Passenger Rights Regulation. The current judgment provides air travelers with more flexibility in choosing replacement flights and strengthens their rights," said Brosche.

According to the Air Passenger Rights Regulation, airlines must offer free replacement flights in case of their own flight cancellations and give passengers the opportunity to either travel at the earliest opportunity or at a later time. In the present case (Case No. X ZR 50/22), Lufthansa canceled several flights in March and April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When two passengers wanted to rebook their flights for later dates, Lufthansa demanded an additional fee. The Consumer Association of North Rhine-Westphalia filed a complaint against this practice after failing in the lower courts. However, the Federal Court of Justice ruled differently and prohibited the airline from continuing this practice.

Further current judgements on air passenger rights

ECJ ruling: Passengers are entitled to compensation in case of technical problems

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled in a landmark judgment that passengers are entitled to compensation for significant technical problems with an aircraft. Regardless of the airline and the affected flight, travelers must be compensated under the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation for a flight delay of more than three hours.

Higher Regional Court of Stuttgart: No Right to Compensation for Extraordinary Circumstances

The Higher Regional Court of Stuttgart has ruled in a recent judgment that passengers have no right to compensation when extraordinary circumstances have led to the cancellation or delay of a flight. Such circumstances can include natural disasters, political unrest, or strikes that significantly disrupt normal flight operations. Airlines are exempt from paying compensation in these cases.

This article is from the 3/2023 issue of the magazine "Life Abroad".

The magazine is published four times a year free of charge with many informative articles on foreign topics.

It is published by the BDAE, the expert for protection abroad.