German Supreme Court: "bird strike" constitutes "extraordinary cicumstances"

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

In judgements issued yesterday in two parallel cases, the German Supreme Court (BGH) has held that a bird strike constitutes extraordinary circumstances and thus exempts the air carrier from the obligation to pay compensation to the passengers in case of a cancellation or a long delay if the air carrier can prove that it had taken all reasonable measures to avoid the cacellation or delay. The Supreme Court argued that bird strikes were unforeseeable and unforstallable events for air carriers. It was not the responsibilty of an air carrier to take any measures to scare birds off from aiports and their neighbourhood. 

In the first case, the plaintiff had booked a return flight from Frankfurt to Banjul via Brussels. The return flight could not depart on time becuase a bird strike had happened to the engine of the aircraft when landing in Banjul. As the aircraft could not be repaired within short time, a substitute aircraft was sent from Brussels whcih delayed the departure of the return flight for one day.

The second case concerend a flight from Fuerteventura to Hannover and the birdstrike happened when the aircraft was about to take off. The plaintiff was re-booked to another flight departing on the next day.

While in the first case the BGH upheld the dismissal of the claim, it referred the second case back to the court of appeal because no findings had been made about the measures taken by the air carrier.

Source: BGH press release 155/2013 of Sept. 24, 2013

Case details: judgements X ZR 160/12 and X ZR 129/12 of Sept. 24, 2013

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