Flight delay due to rioting on board - Is there compensation due to extraordinary circumstances?


According to EU regulations, airlines must compensate passengers if their flight is delayed by more than 3 hours or canceled. Depending on the length of the route, passengers are entitled to between 250 and 600 euros. However, if "extraordinary circumstances" are the reason for the delay or cancellation, the airline is not liable.

What are "exceptional circumstances"?

Exceptional circumstances that protect airlines from passengers' claims for compensation include strikes by air traffic control or airport staff, bad weather, airport and airspace closures, border closures, political unrest, bird strikes or natural disasters, but in such cases the airline must comply with certain obligations under the EU Passenger Rights Regulation and pay for any necessary hotel accommodation, as well as meals and drinks for the waiting time.

Is a rioting passenger an "extraordinary circumstance"?

If a flight is delayed due to a rioting passenger, this is not automatically a reason for the airline to pay compensation to the other passengers.

There is an ECJ ruling from June 11, 2020, which found that a rioting passenger can be an "extraordinary circumstance". The prerequisite for this is, for example, that the behavior of that person poses safety risks that cannot be controlled by the airline. However, if the behavior of the rioting passenger was foreseeable, the airline would have to pay compensation.

The case in question involved a passenger from Portugal who claimed compensation due to his long arrival delay. Due to the rioting on board, the flight had to be diverted, which meant that the plaintiff landed at his destination with a long delay.

However, the airline argued that there was no claim as the delay was caused by an extraordinary circumstance on the pre-flight. However, according to the court, it should have made every effort to transport the passengers on time by other means, if necessary with the help of other airlines. As the airline failed to prove this, the court ruled that the plaintiff could claim compensation.