EU court backs passengers’ rights when flights moved forward

BERLIN (AP) — The European Union’s top court ruled on Tuesday that a flight must be considered as canceled for legal purposes if it is moved forward by more than an hour, a verdict that appears to improve customers’ chances of compensation.

The European Court of Justice was asked to deliver its opinion by courts in Korneuburg, Austria, and Duesseldorf, Germany, that are handling disputes involving passengers, claims management companies and five airlines: Azurair, Corendon Airlines, Eurowings, Austrian Airlines and Laudamotion.

The court found that “a flight must be regarded as having been ‘canceled’ in the case where the operating air carrier brings that flight forward by more than one hour.” That, it noted, “may result in serious inconvenience for passengers, in the same way as a delay.”

In cases where a flight being moved forward by a significant amount of time results in a right to compensation — for example, because of “late communication that the flight has been brought forward” — airlines are liable to pay compensation ranging from 250 to 600 euros ($282 to $676) depending on distance, the court said.

They cannot reduce the compensation figure by 50% on the grounds that they offered the passenger re-routing allowing him or her to arrive at the final destination without delay, it ruled.

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