The European Court of Justice (ECJ) recently found that – in the context of Article 5 of EU Regulation 261/2004, which can exempt air carriers from their obligation to compensate passengers – a collision between an aircraft and a bird may constitute extraordinary circumstances. The ECJ adopted a divergent approach in its decision that appears to disregard the EU advocate general's 2016 opinion regarding the same case.
The Court of Cassation recently rendered a decision concerning an AirAsia Airbus A320 which crashed in the Java Sea in December 2014, killing all crew and passengers on board. Notably, this decision reaffirms that, under French law, a manufacturer's liability cannot be limited or excluded on the grounds that another party or some other cause contributed to the damage if the product was defective and caused the damage.
French drone legislation was recently updated to require telepilots who fly drones for leisure purposes to undergo specific training. In addition, Law 2016-1428 on enhancing drone operational safety recently entered into force. Among other things, the law requires telepilots who fly drones weighing more than 800g to undergo mandatory training and requires certain civil drones to be registered.
In 2016 French contract law was restructured to render it more predictable and commercially attractive. The reform extended to the currency limitation rule, which was considered both restrictive and unclear. A recently passed implementing law is expected to provide greater flexibility for aviation transactions, as the currency limitations no longer apply to transactions between professionals where payment in a foreign currency is common practice in the relevant industry.
While developing its French network, Ryanair received support from various regional airports, including the Mixed Syndicate of Charente Airports (SMAC). The European Commission ultimately found this financial support to be illegal and, as a result, Ryanair had to repay the illicit subsidy to the SMAC. When Ryanair failed to make the payment in full, the SMAC requested the Bordeaux court to order the arrest of a Ryanair aircraft on its arrival at Bordeaux-Merignac Airport.
Bird strikes are not uncommon in civil aviation: every year there are approximately 5,000 to 6,000 incidents costing $1.2 billion worldwide. But this begs the question of who should be held responsible for bird strikes where an airport subcontracts the prevention of bird risk to a third party. The Supreme Court for Administrative Law recently had to decide which party was responsible for this collision, as previous case law on the matter was unclear.
In a recent preliminary ruling, the European Court of Justice held that a foreign object such as a screw or nail on an airport runway which damages an aircraft represents an extraordinary circumstance under the EU Flight Delay Compensation Regulation. According to the court, such incidents exempt air carriers from the obligation to pay passengers compensation in the event of denied boarding and flight cancellation or long delays.
Commercial drone flights are expected to be a future market worth billions. Considering this prospect, the German air traffic control company Deutsche Flugsicherung and the largest telecoms provider in Europe, Deutsche Telekom, have established a joint venture, Droniq, to operate remote-controlled long-haul flights. Among other things, Droniq aims to establish a digital platform for all unmanned aerial operations and engage with security authorities and logistics companies seeking to deliver goods faster.
Recent reports suggest that the need to remedy defects in a faulty fire prevention system and other construction faults will further delay the opening of the new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport. For example, an internal report by TÜV Rheinland detailed 11,519 deficiencies in the airport's emergency lighting and safety power supply cables, which were replaced after the failed opening in 2012.
A 2018 Federal Court of Justice decision clarified that the secondary obligations arising from a contract of carriage between a passenger and an air carrier extend to the verification of the validity of the documents required for entry. However, checking that passengers have the correct documentation also remains an obligation for air carriers. Air carriers must therefore check the validity of passengers' documents before admitting them to a flight in order to rule out their own contributory negligence.
In May 2018 the Aviation Working Group announced plans for a global aircraft trading system (GATS) to modernise the selling, buying and financing of leased aircraft and engines by making such transactions simpler and faster. The GATS will be fully electronic and use e-signatures, e-delivery of documents and a secure e-ledger to record transactions. As such, it is expected to reduce the time and costs required to change German aircraft registrations through the national aviation authority.
Aviation is among the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions, which has given rise to environmental concerns over their global impact and effect on air quality, particularly at ground level. In an effort to tackle aviation's increasing contribution to climate change, international organisations – such as the United Nations and the International Civil Aviation Organisation – are taking steps to reduce global aviation emissions and develop measures with worldwide effect.
In January 2018 the single African air transport market (SAATM) was formally launched. Its principal objective stems from the Yamoussoukro Decision, which provided for the full liberalisation of intra-African air transport services in terms of market access. The SAATM is a welcome development; however, to reap the full potential of the initiative, the African Union must do all that is necessary to ensure that the resources, infrastructure and capacity required to grow the aviation sector are available.
The African Union endorsed the Yamoussoukro Decision in 2000 and it became fully binding in 2002. Its rationale was the need to foster socio-economic development in Africa – policymakers recognised that aviation and a competitive aviation market could be decisive for unlocking Africa's economic potential. However, the agreement has not been fully implemented by its signatories.
The Small Claims Court recently rejected two passengers' claim that their flight should be considered a cancelled flight under the Aviation Services Law. The case examined whether an airline should pay compensation for a missed connecting flight when passengers book two flights from the same company with a short connection time.
Under the Aviation Services Law (Compensation and Assistance for Flight Cancellation or Change of Conditions), passengers who are denied boarding are entitled to compensation. However, in two recent district court judgments concerning passengers that were denied boarding, the courts found that passengers must arrive at the boarding gate on time. As this duty had not been fulfilled in either case, the airlines were not obliged to pay compensation.
The Beit Shean Small Claims Court recently declined a claim for compensation under the Aviation Services Law due to a delayed flight. The plaintiff had booked a return flight from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam with Arkia Airlines, which arrived in Amsterdam late after a nine-and-a-half-hour delay due to a technical fault. The court dismissed the claim and found that Arkia had proved that the technical malfunction had been caused by a fault in the aircraft's wing shelving, which had been beyond the airline's control.
The Tel Aviv Small Claims Court recently declined a passenger's claim for compensation against Qantas and Worldwide Travel and Tourism Ltd, concluding that as the flight in question was a domestic flight within New Zealand, Israeli law did not apply. The court stated that a 'flight operator' is defined in Clause 1 of the Aviation Services Law as an operator that operates flights to and from Israel. Therefore, the law does not apply when connecting flights to Israel are operated by a different airline.
The Tel Aviv Magistrates Court recently declined a passenger's claim that Turkish Airlines should compensate him for being denied boarding. The court concluded that the plaintiff had failed to arrive at the departure gate on time and that he had known, or should have known, the final boarding time for passengers.