(Geneva) The international airline community welcomed today's UK High Court decision to refer questions on the validity of European Community regulations on compensation for denied boarding, cancellation and delays to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

"Airlines accept the need to compensate in areas within our control; however this regulation seeks to make airlines responsible for delays beyond their control. The regulation was a product of regulators without vision and who do not understand the industry. It was irresponsible from day one. At last we have a voice of reason. A court of law has confirmed our view that the regulation was not reasonable and we are confident that the ECJ will revert quickly with a similar view," said Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

IATA filed suit with the UK High Court on 21 April 2004 on grounds that EU Regulation 261/2004 was flawed. EU Regulation 261/2004 sought to establish common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights. By making airlines responsible to compensate for situations beyond their control, such as inclement weather or air traffic control delays, the regulation was inconsistent with the Montreal Convention to which European Community members are party.

IATA's views of the regulation's inconsistencies were shared not only by other airline associations but also by the UK Department for Transport. A total of eight questions were referred to the ECJ with a request for expeditious treatment. "Today's decision sends a clear message to the EC that the industry can no longer tolerate mis-regulation," said Bisignani.

Notes for Editors
1. Published 17 Feb. 2004, the regulation comes into force on 17 Feb. 2005. The full reference is Regulation 261/2004 "on establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights".
2. IATA filed in the UK High Court. IATA has no standing to make a challenge directly to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and as a procedural matter requested the UK High Court to refer the case to the ECJ.
3. The regulation treats air transport completely differently from other modes of transport such as trains or buses despite the fact that airlines have the most advanced guidelines and procedures to deal with delays and cancellations. IATA did not challenge the denied boarding aspects of the legislation.
4. More details are available in the IATA Press Release of 21 April 2004.