Poles are allowed to get zloty

If a passenger receives compensation, it must also be paid in the local currency. That was the verdict of the European Court of Justice on Thursday.

Office towers of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg

NIf a flight is delayed or canceled, passengers can request compensation in a local currency instead of in euros. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided on Thursday in a case from Poland. After a flight delay of more than three hours, the passenger had requested payment of 400 euros in Polish zloty. In the view of the ECJ, it would be incompatible with the requirement of a “broad interpretation of air passenger rights” to refuse payment in the local currency. (Ref. C-356/19)

The main objective of the relevant EU regulation is to “ensure a high level of protection for passengers”, declared the Court of Justice. Therefore, the regulations on claims of passengers should be interpreted broadly. To make such claims dependent on the condition that the benefit is paid in euros would amount to a restriction of this right. The ECJ also pointed out that the payment inevitably requires a conversion from euros into the local currency. For the question of the conversion, however, the law of the respective EU state is decisive.

In a second passenger rights case, the ECJ made it clear that an airline is not automatically liable for an accident in a hotel in which it accommodates a passenger after a flight has been canceled. This could not be obliged on the sole basis of the EU Air Passenger Rights Ordinance to “compensate the passenger for damage caused by misconduct by hotel staff”.

In the specific case, a woman sitting in a wheelchair was accommodated by the airline in a hotel on Mallorca after her flight to Vienna was canceled. She was seriously injured there because the wheels of her wheelchair got stuck in the channel of a path. She therefore sued for damages in Austria. The country’s Supreme Court referred the case to the ECJ.

The court in Luxembourg then found that the airline had to choose a hotel carefully. Compensation for damages caused by the misconduct of hotel staff, however, necessarily presupposes a case-by-case examination. However, this would go beyond the scope of the “standardized and immediate redress measures” provided for by the regulation.