LUXEMBOURG (dpa-AFX) - If a flight is delayed due to a lack of staff at the baggage loading area, passengers may not necessarily claim compensation. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Thursday in Luxembourg that too few staff could be an exceptional circumstance that could justify a delay.

The background to this is a case from Germany. A flight from Koln-Bonn to the Greek island of Kos was delayed by three hours and 49 minutes. This delay was due to several reasons, but mainly to a lack of personnel for baggage loading in Koln-Bonn. Several passengers then assigned their claims for compensation to Flightright. The company took the airline TAS to court, claiming that it was responsible for the delay and that it could not be justified by extraordinary circumstances.

According to EU law, an airline does not have to pay compensation for delays of more than three hours if it can prove that the delay was due to "extraordinary circumstances".

The German court therefore asked the ECJ whether a lack of airport staff could be such an extraordinary circumstance and the airline would therefore not have to pay compensation. Yes, the judges in Luxembourg now decided: if the airport has too few staff to load luggage, this can be an "extraordinary circumstance". Such a circumstance exists if, firstly, the event is not part of the airline's normal activity and, secondly, it cannot be controlled by the airline, according to the judges at the highest European court.

The regional court in Koln must now decide whether this was the case in this specific instance. However, the ECJ set limits: TAS must prove, among other things, that the staff shortage could not be avoided and that measures were taken to prevent a flight delay./rew/DP/men