SOS CONSO. Good news for passengers whose plane does not land at the planned location, they can claim compensation! Such is the lesson which can be drawn from the misadventure of Paolo X. On June 11, 2018, he takes a flight of the company Vueling Airlines, to go from Milan to Paris. His plane should land at 10:30 p.m. at Orly airport (Val-de-Marne). But, as it took off late and the airport closed at 11:30 p.m., it landed on that of Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle (Val-d’Oise), at 12:18 a.m. the next day.
Mr. X claims the compensation provided for by the European regulation on the rights of air passengers, in the event of a delay of more than three hours (here, 250 euros). Vueling Airlines refuses it: it considers that the plane has arrived at its destination – “Paris” – one hour and 48 minutes (only) after the scheduled time. In addition, she assures, even if the delay had been more than three hours, she should be exempted from the payment of this compensation because the closure of Orly airport constituted a “Extraordinary circumstance”, who “Could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken”.
Mr. X summons him to the Ivry-sur-Seine (Val-de-Marne) district court, but he loses his case. He appealed in cassation, and his lawyer, Me Marie Molinié, stressed that the “final destination” of a flight is that of “The arrival airport indicated on the ticket”, either, in this case, “Paris-Orly”.
She also recalls that under the Civil Code, it is the carrier who must prove that he landed at Orly with a delay of less than three hours, and not the passenger to prove the contrary. The court, which did not require this demonstration, has “Reversed the burden of proof”, she insists.
Me Molinié adds that the regulations which prohibit any landing at Orly after 11:30 p.m., in order to protect the sleep of local residents, cannot be considered as falling within the scope of “Extraordinary circumstances”, since it results from a ministerial decision of… April 4, 1968, in force, therefore, for more than fifty years!
On February 17, the Court of Cassation approved the reasoning of the lawyer. It overturns the decision and sends the parties back to the Paris judicial court, so that it can rehearse the case. She recalls that the notion of “Extraordinary circumstances” designates events that “Are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier” and that “Escape the effective control of it”. Knowing the closing time of an airport is obviously “Inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier”. More than two years after his trip to Paris, Paolo X should be compensated.