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Business

European court strengthens air passengers' rights

The European Court of Justice has strengthened the rights of air passengers in two separate rulings. Travelers are entitled to compensation even if booked flights are cancelled for operational reasons.

The European Court of Justice in Strasbourg on Thursday ruled air passengers must be compensated for not being allowed to board their booked flights or connecting flights even if crew strikes or other in-house reasons have necessitated rescheduling measures.

The court pointed to current EU regulations stipulating that airlines could only under very restricted conditions turn passengers away without any form of compensation, for instance if travelers did not have with them all required documents or if their health condition was critical.

Otherwise, passengers were entitled to financial compensation and had to be offered alternative transport to their destinations as well as adequate service at airports while they were waiting for a later flight, the judges said.

Costly ruling

The European court thus sided with a group of passengers who'd sued airlines for not being taken aboard their booked flights.

In one of the cases, Finnish carrier Finnair had reorganized flights and cancelled a number of connecting flights in the wake of a crew strike. Some passengers who had booked flights on the following day had to wait for 10 hours at the airport because they could not board their plane, which was already full with travelers from the previous day's waiting line.

In the second case under scrutiny, Spanish carrier Iberia had on its own cancelled some boarding passes for connecting flights owned by passengers who the airline thought would not be able to make to the gate in time because of a delay of the fist leg of their flight. The passengers in questions arrived on time, but were still turned away at the gate. In both cases, compensation will now have to be paid to make up for the travelers' inconvenience.

hg/dr (AFP, dpa)