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.
If a third-country aircraft owner terminates the lease of a German airline but wants to keep the aircraft registered in Germany, it must enter into a new lease or similar agreement with an entity from an EU member state for at least six months. This article discusses why aircraft lessors and owners should carefully consider the requirements for keeping an aircraft in the German aircraft registry, particularly if its lease has been terminated.
The Federal Supreme Court recently ruled that the complete failure of an airport computer system may be considered an extraordinary circumstance. The court affirmed that airport system failures caused by technical defects which affect or suspend the functioning of technical equipment over a prolonged period are an external event affecting air carrier flight operations. Further, the monitoring, maintenance and repair of an airport's technical facilities lie outside the responsibility and competence of air carriers.
The Federal Court of Justice recently held that a strike is considered an extraordinary circumstance pursuant to the EU Flight Delay Compensation Regulation only if its consequences cannot be averted by reasonable measures and make flight cancellation legally and actually necessary. This decision emphasises that determining whether airlines can avoid liability due to extraordinary circumstances must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
The Hamburg Local Court recently dismissed a passenger's claim for damages based on denied boarding after the delay of a previous flight which had been operated by a code-share partner. The court was of the opinion that a code-share partner is not liable for every further disruption along the course of transportation. Rather, the right to claim damages requires an adequate causal link between the delay and the further disruption.
Following Bavaria's state elections in October 2018, the legally binding plans to build a third runway at Munich Airport incurred significant delays. The state authorities recently agreed that the project will be suspended for five years, despite the fact that demand for aviation services in Munich – and internationally – continues to rise. The decision is a further example of how Germany's aviation industry will face additional, severe obstacles and challenges over the coming years.
The European Parliament and Council recently revised and replaced the basic regulation on common rules in the field of civil aviation. The new basic regulation promises a number of significant changes to the German aviation landscape over the next five years. Among other revisions, the Federal Aviation Office could lose some of its control over certain tasks relating to air operator certification, oversight and enforcement.
The State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia recently decided to launch an airline passenger rights app. The new app is intended to promote consumer protection and help passengers to claim compensation easily via their mobile phones. It will be developed by the consumer advice centre and is expected to inform passengers of their rights, perform claim checks, offer suggestions on how and where to assert claims and actively support the process of claiming compensation.
The Hamburg Regional Court recently referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) the question of which air carrier is the operating air carrier within the meaning of EU Regulation 261/2004 where the flight is operated under a wet lease agreement. The ECJ confirmed that air carriers which lease aircraft and crew to other air carriers under a wet lease agreement but bear no operational responsibility for the flights are not covered by the concept of 'operating air carrier' within the meaning of the regulation.
The Federal Court of Justice recently denied a claim for compensation regarding costs relating to the duty of German airlines to carry sky marshals, who are entrusted with the security of certain flights based on specific security considerations and by decree of the federal police. While the court's argument was legally stringent, it lacked sustainable reasoning as to why airline cost and security obligations should be more important than those of other transport means or sectors.
A new European Council regulation provides basic rules for civil aviation security across EU member states. Such clarification is welcome news for Germany, where previously only fragmented rules and regulations on lighter unmanned aircraft and drones existed. However, as the EU regulation fails to address every issue relating to drone safety, Germany's existing drone regulation will continue to apply where no new rules are implemented or where Germany remains the competent authority.
The Second Chamber of the First Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court recently rejected three constitutional complaints for adjudication against the Federal Administrative Court's decision concerning night flight regulations affecting Berlin Schoenefeld Airport. In its decisions, the Federal Constitutional Court appropriately weighed the legal interests of affected property owners with those of the general public.
Germany recently implemented the EU Package Travel Directive by updating its travel legislation in the Civil Code. The new law provides that anyone offering at least two travel services is considered a 'package organiser'. The new regime applies to traditional tour operators and air carriers, which may be regarded as package organisers if they offer travel services in addition to flights. Air carriers should review their travel offers to avoid any unexpected obligations and liability.
Although aircraft repossession is used only as a last resort, it remains unfortunately inevitable in some cases. Under German law, there are no self-help rights available to owners in order to take possession of an aircraft. It is possible to obtain interim injunctions or arrest orders before the German courts; however, those require a substantial amount of time to prepare court documents, as the entitlement to the claim must be shown to be prima facie.
A recent European Court of Justice decision presents a major change of case law in Germany with regard to the applicability of EU Regulation 261/2004 to connecting flights departing from an airport situated outside an EU member state. The decision has countered the longstanding position of the Federal Court of Justice, which held that the applicability of the regulation to each flight should be examined separately, even if the flights were operated by the same airline and were booked together.
In its latest decision, the Federal Court of Justice has reiterated that passengers are responsible for their own schedules and must allow sufficient time for airport security checks. The decision may lead to more flexible case-by-case judgments and suggests that airports, airlines and the state are not solely responsible for losses incurred from delays at airport security, but that every passenger has their own obligations and responsibilities.