Airlines don’t need to compensate passengers if a flight is delayed by one person biting another as it is an “extraordinary circumstance”, the EU’s top court ruled on Thursday after a customer sued Portuguese airline TAP over such an incident.
However, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg called on carriers to ensure passengers are re-routed as soon as possible, either via direct or indirect flights on other airlines, to absolve themselves from such claims.
“The unruly behaviour of an air passenger may constitute an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ capable of exempting the carrier from its obligation to pay compensation for the cancellation or long delay of the flight concerned, or of a subsequent flight operated by that carrier using the same aircraft,” judges said.
The ruling came after a traveller sued Transportes Aereos Portugueses (TAP) for compensation after the departure of his flight from Brazil to Portugal in August 2017 was delayed, causing him to miss a connecting flight to Norway.
The TAP plane left Brazil late because it had been diverted on its way there to disembark a passenger who was biting other people on board and assaulting crew members.
The court said re-routing the passenger on the next flight operated by TAP was a reasonable measure that released the airline from its obligation to pay cash compensation, even if the passenger arrived a day after his initial schedule.
TAP said the flight arrived late in Lisbon because it had used the same plane that was diverted to disembark the violent passenger on its way to Brazil and it was impossible to send another aircraft on time.