Landing time of an airplane is not the arrival time

In a recent ruling the European Court of Justice clarifies what needs to be considered as the arrival time of an airplane. This is relevant for the question whether a passenger is entitled to a compensation in case of a delay.

What happened?

An Austrian consumer books a flight ticket with a German airline in order to go from Salzburg to Cologne/Bonn. The airplane departs 3 hours and 10 minutes later than initially planned and arrives with a delay of 2 hours and 58 minutes at Cologne/Bonn airport. However, the airplane has been engaged to the gate after 3 hours and 3 minutes. The Austrian consumer states that he is entitled to a compensation amounting to € 250 due to the fact that the flight was delayed over 3 hours. The German airline argues that the airplane touched down on the tarmac of the runway at Cologne/Bonn airport 2 hours and 28 later than initially planned and therefore the consumer is not entitled to a compensation. The consumer does not agree with the airline and goes to court. The Austrian court asks the European Court of Justice to clarify what time needs to be defined as the time of arrival.  

Court decision

Passengers remain confined in an enclosed space and are under the instructions and control of the air carrier during a flight. Their possibilities of communicating with the outside world are considerably restricted. Due to security reasons passengers are not allowed to make a phone call or use internet before they reach the gate.

Therefore the European Court of Justice decides that the concept of arrival time refers to the time at which at least one of the doors of the airplane is opened (assuming that the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft at that moment).

Judgment of the court