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Jurisdiction of German Courts when flight legs are operated by different airlines

A topical issue in German procedural aviation law is currently the question whether German courts have jurisdiction if a booking consists of several legs and the delayed or cancelled flight departed outside of Germany, whereas the flight was not booked with the air carrier operating the delayed or cancelled flight but with a travel agency or with the carrier operating the leg departing from/arriving in Germany.

The German Federal Court if Justice, the highest Civil Court in Germany, is soon going to decide on this issue. The hearing will take place on 18 August 2015.

In the concrete case, the Plaintiff had booked a flight from Stuttgart via Paris to Helsinki with a French Airline. The leg from Stuttgart to Paris was operated by the French airline and the flight from Paris to Helsinki was operated by a Finnish Airline. The flight from Stuttgart to Paris was on time, whereas the flight from Paris to Helsinki was delayed.

The Plaintiff brought action against the Finnish airline before the Local Court in Nürtingen and claimed for compensation under Regulation (EC) 261/2004. The Local Court Nürtingen dismissed the claim i.a. for lack of jurisdiction whereupon the Plaintiff filed an appeal to the Regional Court in Stuttgart.

The Regional Court in Stuttgart also denied its jurisdiction, arguing that Article 33 of the Montreal Convention is not applicable as compensation under Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004 has to be regarded separately from the rules of the Montreal Convention. The Court further did not assume applicability of Article 5 of Regulation (EC) 44/2001. The Regional Court held that it is decisive where exactly the contractual service should be performed, i.e. where the agreed airport of departure and/or the airport of destination was. On this basis, the Regional Court Stuttgart considered the two legs separately: Stuttgart – Paris and Paris – Helsinki.

The Court based its decision of non-jurisdiction on the fact that the flight operated by the Defendant did not depart from Germany and that the Defendant was also not the contracting partner of the Plaintiff as the flights were not booked with the Defendant. The Court reasoned that the Defendant's services do not have a connection to Germany, as the Defendant had not made the booking of the itinerary (departing from Stuttgart) nor did the flight operated by the Defendant depart from or arrive in Germany. Therefore, the Regional Court Stuttgart only considered the courts in Paris or Helsinki to be competent as these were the airports of departure and arrival.

The Federal Court will now render a final and binding decision on this issue.

For further information please contact:

Claudia Hess
Urwantschky Dangel Borst PartmbB
Insel 1
89231 Neu-Ulm

Phone: (49) 731 70 70 922
Secretariat: (49) 731 70 70 941
Fax: (49) 731 70 70 999