flightright. The extensive CJEU notion of ‘contract’. Mumbles on effet utile and residual private international law.

One of my PhD students, Michiel Poesen, has an extensive case-note coming up on C-274/16 flightright – when it is out I shall include a link here. For the time being therefore I shall be very brief. In summary, the Court held

First of all that the special jurisdictional rules of the Brussels I Recast do not apply to defendants domiciled outside of the EU.

That was as such an obvious finding: these suits are subject to residual national rules on jurisdiction. However the Court makes a point, at 54, to emphasise that in accordance with the principle of effectiveness (effet utile), rules under national law cannot make it impossible or excessively difficult to exercise the rights conferred by EU law. Here: the rights of passengers under the flight delay compensation rules, Regulation 261/2004. Is that CJEU shorthand for suggesting that if a Member State were not to allow claimants based in the EU, to claim compensation against third-country defendants, it would contravene EU law?

Second, where an operating air carrier which has no contract with the passenger performs obligations under Regulation 261/2004, it is to be regarded as doing so on behalf of the person having a contract with that passenger. (At 64) that carrier must be regarded as fulfilling the freely consented obligations (a reference to the Handte formula) vis-à-vis the contracting partner of the passengers concerned. Those obligations arise under the contract for carriage by air. Consequently,  an application for compensation for the long delay of a flight carried out by an operating air carrier such as (here) Air Nostrum, with which the passengers concerned do not have contractual relations, must be considered to have been introduced in respect of contracts for carriage by air concluded between those passengers and the carrier with whom they bought tickets. (Per the first bullet-point above, provided that carrier does have domicile in the EU).

Of note is that this finding of a jurisdictional trigger under the rule of contracts (7(1), does not necessarily imply that at the substantive level, the court with jurisdiction will eventually decide that there is a contract on the basis of the lex causae.

Finally, to determine per Article 7(1)b second -, the court of ‘the place in a Member State where, under the contract, the goods were delivered or should have been delivered’, a contract for carriage by air, such as the contracts at issue in the cases in the main proceedings consisting of a single booking for the entire journey, establishes the obligation, for an air carrier, to carry a passenger from a point A to a point C. Such a carriage operation constitutes a service of which one of the principal places of provision is at point C. That finding is not called into question by the fact that the operating operates only the carriage on a flight which does not finish at the place of arrival of the second leg of a connecting flight in so far as the contract for carriage by air relating to the connecting flight covers the carriage of those passengers to the place of arrival of the second leg.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.11.1.

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