Airlines and travel agents who cannot prove they told passengers that their flights were cancelled at least two weeks before take-off must now pay compensation.
The European Court of Justice has ruled in favour of passenger who was told his flight between Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Paramaribo, Spain, scrubbed by airline Surinaamse Luchtvaart Maatschappij (SLM).
The passenger asked for a 600 euro refund, but the airline refused arguing they had told his travel agent more than a month before.
The travel agent also declined to pay compensation, claiming the contract was between him and the airline and was not liable for changes to the schedule.
Two-week time limit
The case went to a court in The Netherlands, which referred the matter to the ECJ as the interpretation of regulations was unclear.
The ECJ judges ruled that it was not good enough for the airline and travel agent to blame each other and leave the passenger out of pocket.
“Under the regulations, it falls to the air carrier to prove that it has informed passengers of the cancellation of the flight in question and to prove the period within which it did so,” says the judgment.
“If the air carrier is unable to prove that the passenger concerned was informed of the cancellation of his flight more than two weeks before the scheduled time of departure, that air carrier must pay the compensation specified in the regulation.”
The ruling went on to explain the regulations not only apply to an airline, but any tour operator or travel agent acting as a middle man, including online travel sites.
Ruling applies to EU flights
The court was told that the passenger was due to fly on November 14, 2014.
On October 9, the airline told the tour operator the flight was cancelled, but the operator failed to tell the passenger until November 4. The two week limit was applied to November 4 under EU airline regulations.
The court added that the ruling did not prevent the airline from seeking compensation from a tour operator who fails to pass cancellation information on to a passenger.
The ruling applies to EU airlines and airlines based outside the EU with flights originating from an EU airport.