Case C-150/12, Brännström – Ryanair strain leaves passengers taking the train

When can an airline avoid paying compensation for an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ under Article 5(3) of Regulation 261/2004?


The claimants, Mr and Mrs Brännström, had Ryanair tickets for a flight from a Belgian airport to a Swedish airport. The claimants checked in and Ryanair cancelled the flight. Ryanair offered the claimants another plane ticket – on a plane leaving three days later. The claimants declined the offer.

The CJEU’s summary indicates that the claimants subsequently claimed compensation. Invoking Article 19 of the Montreal Convention, they demanded reimbursement for the cost of the return journey, namely, train tickets and car hire.

Ryanair denied the claimants’ claim. It had been impossible for the incoming Ryanair flight to land owing to: the foggy weather, the Instrument Landing System was out of action, and there were restrictions on the working times of personnel. These were extraordinary circumstances for the purposes of EU Regulation 261/2004. Furthermore, the Montreal Convention was not applicable to cancelled flights. Ryanair went on to point out that it could not have taken any further action to prevent the harm suffered by the claimants since they had left the airport one hour after the flight had been cancelled.

Questions Referred

According to the Curia website, the Swedish court asked the following Questions:

Does the carrier’s liability for damage caused by delay under Article 19 of the Montreal Convention also include cases where the passengers’ arrival at the destination is delayed as a result of non-operation of a flight? Does any importance attach to the stage at which the flight was cancelled, for example, after check-in?

Can a technical problem with the airport, which alone or together with weather conditions makes landing impossible, constitute an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ under Article 5(3) of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004? Can the assessment of what constitutes such a circumstance be affected by the fact that the airline was already aware of the technical problem?

If the answer to the first question in point 2 is in the affirmative, what measures must the airline take in order to avoid the obligation to pay compensation under Article 5(3) of the regulation?

Can the airline be required, and if so on what conditions and to what extent, to have extra resources in the form of, for example, aircraft or crew available to operate a flight which would otherwise have had to be cancelled, or in order to be able to operate a flight in the place of a flight which has been cancelled?

Can an airline be required to offer passengers re-routing under Article 8(1)(b) [of the regulation]? In that case what is the obligation as regards carriage, for example, in respect of time of departure and the use of other carriers?

If the answer to the question in point 1 is in the affirmative, is there any difference between the measures which an airline must take to avoid the obligation to pay compensation under Article 5(3) of the regulation and the measures which it must take to avoid liability for damage under Article 19 of the Montreal Convention?

This case has been removed from the register (OJ [2013] C9/34).