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CJEU: A collision between an aircraft and a bird is an ‘extraordinary circumstance’

However, where an authorised expert finds after the collision that the aircraft concerned is airworthy, the carrier cannot justify the delay by invoking the need to carry out a second check

On 10 August 2013, Ms Marcela Pešková and Mr Jirí Pešká wished to travel from Burgas (Bulgaria) to Ostrava (Czech Republic) by taking a flight operated by the Czech airline Travel Service. Before its departure to Ostrava, the aircraft in question had already flown from Prague to Burgas, from Burgas to Brno (Czech Republic) and from Brno to Burgas.

During the flight from Prague to Burgas, a technical failure in a valve was found. Its repair took 1 hour and 45 minutes. Subsequently, according to Travel Service, the aircraft collided with a bird during the landing of the flight from Burgas to Brno, which meant that the aircraft’s technical condition had to be checked. That check was first carried out by a local company authorised to do so. Nonetheless, the owner of the aircraft, the company Sunwing, insisted that a Travel Service technician travel to Brno from another town in the Czech Republic in order to check that the aircraft was indeed in an airworthy condition. Ultimately, neither check found any damage that might call into question the airworthiness of the aircraft.

As a result of those two unexpected events, Ms Pešková and Mr Pešká’s flight to Ostrava was delayed by 5 hours and 20 minutes.

Ms Pešková and Mr Pešká subsequently brought an action before the Obvodní soud pro Prahu 6 (Prague 6 District Court, Czech Republic) claiming that Travel Service should pay them CZK 6 825 (approximately €250). In their submission, the EU Regulation on compensation for air passengers, 1 as interpreted by the Court of Justice, 2 granted them the right to such compensation since their flight had arrived at the destination with a delay of three hours or more.

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