The England and Wales Court of Appeal has rejected an appeal by a passenger claiming EU261 compensation for a flight that originated outside of the EU but whose third sector was within the EU.
Ms Kanaka Durga Chelluri had booked a flight on a single ticket that originated in Kansas City. The flight took on four legs from Kansas to Detroit, Detroit to London Heathrow, London Heathrow to Mumbai and finally Mumbai to Bengaluru.
The first two legs were operated by Delta Airlines with Air India operating the sectors from Heathrow onwards. Both carriers are non-EU airlines.
Ms Chelluri’s flight from Heathrow to Mumbai ended up being delayed by 48 hours as this flight originated in the UK, then still an EU member state, she believed she was entitled to compensation under EU261.
County Court judges found that as the flight was effectively one flight (with multiple legs) she was not entitled to compensation and rejected her claim.
On 16th December her case to the Court of Appeal was also rejected effectively given a final ruling that flights booked as one are classed as single flights.
In the case of Ms Chelluri, her flight originated from outside the EU and ended outside the EU so EU261 is not applicable her delay in Heathrow was not a territorial gateway as defined by Article 3.
Accordingly, on the basis of the authorities, I consider that the judge was right as a matter of law to conclude that in this case, where there was a single booking covering the whole of the flight from Kansas City to Bengaluru, Article 3(1)(a) of the Regulation did not apply. That means that, subject to ground 2, the judge was right to refuse the appellant’s claim.
Lord Justice Stuart-Smith
Daniel Powell of Zaiwalla & Co, Air India’s solicitors, commented: “What is significant about this decision is that this is one of the first cases where the Court of Appeal has been asked to determine EU law post-Brexit.
“The intention of ECJ judges when making their decisions was discussed at the hearing, and the Court of Appeal chose to not interpret these principles differently in the post-Brexit era. This is despite an Attorney General commentary being released in October, which stated in its discussion that just because a passenger’s journey originated from a non-EU/UK destination this does not necessarily mean that they are not entitled to compensation.
“Had the Claimant succeeded in their appeal, airlines could have expected myriad further claims against them, with a potentially substantial economic impact being felt across an industry already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.”