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  • Travel Claims

    01. 12. 2015

    The regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council no. 261/2004 of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in air travel (hereafter „the Regulation“) has been in effect for a number of years. Travelers are frequently not familiar with their rights if they, for instance, travel by air only occasionally.

    The purpose of the Regulation is to provide for individual rights of passengers who were denied boarding or in the event of cancellation or long delay of flights. First and foremost, these rights include right to care, in the form of refreshment or accommodation, and right to reimbursement of cost incurred in connection with such an event or in connection with re-routing. In case of denied boarding or flight cancellation, the Regulation stipulates the airlines´ obligation to pay the effected client a lump sum compensation in the amount between 250 € and 600 €, subject to fulfillment of certain conditions set forth therein.

    Recently, the European Court of Justice heard a case involving the issue of the right to compensation, and more specifically under what circumstances the air carrier may be relieved of this obligation due to extraordinary circumstances leading to the cancellation of the flight. In a dispute between KLM and passenger Corina van der Lans, the ECJ held that air carriers are obliged to provide compensation to passengers under the Regulation even in the event the flight was cancelled due to unexpected technical problems which in the view of the Court do not fall in the category of so-called extraordinary circumstances waiving the carriers´ liability. According the rationale of the Court, extraordinary circumstances are only hidden defects which may jeopardize air travel safety or technical defects caused by sabotage or acts of terrorism.

    Although the Regulation stipulates that the air carrier should on its own initiative provide care to passengers in the above circumstances, it is largely the passengers themselves who have to take the initiative. Therefore, it is pivotal that each passenger invokes their rights with the air carrier, ideally right after the event establishing the respective claim.

    In the Czech context, the amendment of the Act no. 159/1999 Coll., on some conditions for tourism enterprises, has come to the final phase of the legislative process. The amendment has been extensively discussed as it were to introduce insurers´ liability to compensate tour operators´ clients in full in case of the operator´s bankruptcy, i.e. above the agreed amount of compensation.

    This relatively ambitious recast, reflecting inter alia a recent ruling of the Constitutional Court, has not passed through the Senate as drafted and was sent back to the Chamber of Deputies with additional draft amendments, which were consequently adopted by the Chamber of Deputies. Although the above mentioned obligation did not go through, the amendment is still going to have a significant impact on tourism business. For instance, it introduces an obligation for tour operators to present their economic and financial results to the insurer prior to signing an insurance contract and then to inform the insurance company on a monthly basis about the number of clients, number of trips sold and revenues from advance payments from clients.

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