EXAMPLES OF EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES
Loose objects on the runway
If loose objects on the runway result in a technical problem, this does not constitute a responsibility of the airline and thus it is not obliged to pay compensation in the event of flight delays or cancellations.
Unusual operational occurrences
Unexpected safety defects only then become an extraordinary circumstance if they are regarded as unusual operational occurrences. If, however, they are a usual operational occurrence, then the airline must pay.
Production defect of the aircraft manufacturer
If there exists a production defect of the aircraft manufacturer, the airline is only not required to pay compensation if this defect affects several aircraft of said manufacturer.
Malfunction of airport facilities
If one or more of the facilities at the airport malfunction, with this resulting in flight delays or cancellations, the airline is only then not obligated to pay compensation to passengers if several aircraft are affected.
Intoxicated passengers do not have a right to transportation
If, as a passenger, you have a valid ticket and have appeared punctually at the check-in counter, in other words at least 45 minutes prior to the flight, you have a right to compensation if you have been denied boarding because of an overbooked flight. The only exception to this are those passengers who are intoxicated and thus represent a danger to the safety of other passengers. Inappropriate behavior also releases the airline from its obligation to provide transportation, and thus also from the requirement to pay compensation.
Doors that have already closed do not have to be reopened for late passengers
if a passenger arrives at the gate when the doors of the aircraft have already been closed, the airline is not required to reopen the doors since this would result in a substantial disruption to air traffic. In such an instance, an airline passenger also does not have a right to compensation due to denial of boarding.
Insect in the pitot tube – when the airline is not required to pay compensation
A foreign object in a pitot tube prohibits speed measurement and thus represents a safety hazard. If this results in a major flight delay or a flight cancellation, the airline must pay compensation to the passengers of the flight affected. Only if the airline can provide evidence that it did everything within its power to avoid such damage, is it released from its obligation to pay compensation.
Bird strikes – the airline doesn’t always have to pay compensation
Bird strikes are a classic problem in aviation. If a bird strike results in the delay or cancelation of a subsequent flight due to ongoing necessary repairs, up to now there has been no unambiguous legal precedent to govern such a scenario. Because bird strikes do occur from time to time, however, this does not necessarily constitute an extraordinary circumstance, in which case compensation may be paid to the affected passengers.
Strikes are extraordinary, regardless of whether they are internal or external
if airline personnel are involved in a strike, this represents an extraordinary circumstance and indemnifies the airline from having to pay compensation to affected passengers in the event of flight delays or flight cancellations.
Snow on the runway is extraordinary – airline does not have to pay compensation
If heavy snowfall causes delays of more than 3 hours or flight cancellations, because the operator of the airport is unable to clear the airport of excess snow in a timely fashion, the reason for the flight delay does not lie within the sphere of influence of the airline and thus the airline does not have to pay compensation in accordance with EU regulation 261/2004.
Lack of deicing agent: whether or not the airline must pay compensation is disputed
If a flight is delayed or canceled because the aircraft cannot take off on time due to a lack of deicing fluid, it is a matter of debate whether or not the airline is at fault and therefore uncertain whether the passenger has a claim for compensation.
Medical emergencies not always an extraordinary circumstance
If a medical emergency occurs on the preceding flight, this is generally regarded as an extraordinary circumstance and the airline does not have to pay compensation due to a flight delay or flight cancellation. However, the airline is only released from its obligation to pay compensation if there was not sufficient time to reschedule flights.
Prohibition of night flights or denied landing permission – compensation payments under dispute
If a flight is affected by non-customary night-flight prohibition or denied nighttime landing permission, thus resulting in a flight delay, in general this will constitute an extraordinary circumstance and the airline is not obliged to pay compensation. If, however, the night landing permission is denied because the aircraft had taken off 3 hours too late, it is reasonable to assume that the airline was aware of this circumstance and it should have rescheduled the flight to avoid the delay, and it must therefore pay compensation for said delay. A detailed examination of the circumstances for the flight delay would be required.
Accidents at the airport may be extraordinary circumstances
If an accident occurs between an aircraft at the airport and another vehicle or piece of equipment at that airport, and this results in a major flight delay or even the cancellation of the flight, in all probability the airline will not be held responsible and will therefore not have to pay compensation.
Airline does not have to pay compensation due to lightning strike
A lightning strike represents serious danger to the safety of an airplane and may constitute an extraordinary circumstance so that, in the event of a delay caused by an emergency landing, for example, the airline would not have to pay. However, if the aircraft had been struck by lightning during a prior flight and the airline had ample time to make the aircraft functional again, to charter a different aircraft, or if the airline cannot demonstrate that it did everything possible to avoid the delay, the situation look better for passengers with regards to compensation.
Fog as an acceptable reason, only for aircraft that are up-to-date
Heavy fog at the airport may constitute an extraordinary circumstance leading to the airline not having to pay passengers compensation, even if it does result in major flight delays or even flight cancellation. If, however, the reason an aircraft cannot land is because it is badly equipped, the legal situation is somewhat different.
Strong wind at takeoff or landing restricts compensation
If the wind at the originating airport is so strong that the manufacturer of the aircraft prohibits its taking off under such wind conditions, the airline does not have to pay compensation to passengers, even if this results in major delays or even cancellation of the flight. However, the airline must provide detailed information and documentation to show that the manufacturer does not permit takeoff in such wind conditions.
Severe weather precludes compensation for flight delays
Extraordinarily heavy rain or snowfall at the originating airport may constitute an extraordinary circumstance under which the airline, despite a delay or cancellation of the flight, does not have to pay compensation to passengers. One indication that this is indeed an extraordinary circumstance would be the fact that other airlines are also unable to take off.
Closed airspace also precludes compensation
if the airspace over the originating or destination airport is closed, this generally represents an extraordinary circumstance. If this then results in a flight delay or cancellation of the flight, in the face of passenger claims for compensation the airline may invoke closure of the airspace and thus avoid payment.