Employer’s claim against an airline for damages as a result of delays: background

A recent judgment issued by the Third Chamber of the Court of Justice for the European Union has addressed the issue of the possible title to sue of those companies that contract the flight of their employees, to claim damages as result of the delays suffered by those employees. This judgment is dated 17 February 2016 and was issued in the Case 429/14 in the matter Air Baltic Corporation AS vs Lietuvos Republikos specialiųjų tyrimų tarnyba.

In particular, the issue presented before the Court in this case was: are Articles 19, 22 and 29 of the Montreal Convention to be understood and interpreted as meaning that an air carrier is liable to third parties, inter alia to the passengers’ employer, a legal person with which a transaction for the international carriage of passengers was entered into, for damage occasioned by a flight’s delay, on account of which the applicant (the employer) incurred additional expenditure connected with the delay (for example, the payment of travel expenses)?

The facts of the matter were the following:

  • The claimant, acting through a travel agency, purchased flight tickets in order for two of its agents to travel on official business between Vilnius (Lithuania) and Baku (Azerbaijan), via Riga (Latvia) and Moscow (Russia).
  • According to the schedule, the agents concerned would leave Vilnius at 9.55 on 16 January 2011 and would arrive in Baku at 22.40 the same day, and the carrier on the flights between Vilnius, Riga and Moscow would be Air Baltic.
  • Although the passengers arrived in Riga on schedule, the flight from Riga to Moscow landed behind schedule. The passengers were unable to connect on to the flight to Baku and arrived one day later than originally scheduled.

Since the delay extended the time of the employee’s official business travel by over 14 hours, the employer paid them LTL 1,168.35 (approximately EUR 338) in travel expenses and State social security contributions, as it was required to do under Lithuanian legislation.

The employer then sought to be compensated for that amount by Air Baltic, who did not agree to do so.

Air Baltic lodged an appeal before the Supreme Court of Lithuania who brought the matter to the European Union Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling.

Do you want to know how the problem was solved? Keep reading.

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