The European Parliament and Council recently revised and replaced the basic regulation on common rules in the field of civil aviation. The new basic regulation promises a number of significant changes to the German aviation landscape over the next five years. Among other revisions, the Federal Aviation Office could lose some of its control over certain tasks relating to air operator certification, oversight and enforcement.
While settling claims out of court to avoid losing customers is becoming standard practice in the shipping and transport industry, such payments should not be made prematurely – particularly if the carrier's responsibility for the damage is unclear. In most cases, the opposing party interprets such goodwill payments as an acknowledgement of debt at a later stage in the proceedings. Therefore, carriers are advised to draw up a brief compensation declaration to avoid having to compensate twice.
The State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia recently decided to launch an airline passenger rights app. The new app is intended to promote consumer protection and help passengers to claim compensation easily via their mobile phones. It will be developed by the consumer advice centre and is expected to inform passengers of their rights, perform claim checks, offer suggestions on how and where to assert claims and actively support the process of claiming compensation.
The Hamburg Regional Court recently referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) the question of which air carrier is the operating air carrier within the meaning of EU Regulation 261/2004 where the flight is operated under a wet lease agreement. The ECJ confirmed that air carriers which lease aircraft and crew to other air carriers under a wet lease agreement but bear no operational responsibility for the flights are not covered by the concept of 'operating air carrier' within the meaning of the regulation.
The Federal Court of Justice recently denied a claim for compensation regarding costs relating to the duty of German airlines to carry sky marshals, who are entrusted with the security of certain flights based on specific security considerations and by decree of the federal police. While the court's argument was legally stringent, it lacked sustainable reasoning as to why airline cost and security obligations should be more important than those of other transport means or sectors.
In its capacity as a court for inland navigation, the Mannheim District Court recently settled a dispute between an inland waterway carrier and a sender. The sender had instructed the carrier on short notice and despite the express statement by the carrier that its vessel was not yet available. According to the court's interpretation of the transport contract, the flexibility agreed in respect of loading readiness was to be understood as an exemption of liability for late delivery.
The Federal Court of Justice recently clarified a number of issues under the Budapest Convention on the Contract for the Carriage of Goods by Inland Waterway – most importantly, the determination (calculation) of the limitation per weight of goods. According to the court, only the weight specified in the transport document can be invoked; if no weight is mentioned in the transport document, the carrier must rely on the limitation per package.
A new European Council regulation provides basic rules for civil aviation security across EU member states. Such clarification is welcome news for Germany, where previously only fragmented rules and regulations on lighter unmanned aircraft and drones existed. However, as the EU regulation fails to address every issue relating to drone safety, Germany's existing drone regulation will continue to apply where no new rules are implemented or where Germany remains the competent authority.
The German Freight Forwarders' Standard Terms and Conditions (ADSp) 2017 are designed to protect forwarders and close any potential liability risk gaps, particularly for organisations involved in air transport. In order to clarify the issue of whether the ADSp 2003 applied only to transport that was governed by German law, the updated ADSp stipulate that they do not apply to international transport.
The Second Chamber of the First Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court recently rejected three constitutional complaints for adjudication against the Federal Administrative Court's decision concerning night flight regulations affecting Berlin Schoenefeld Airport. In its decisions, the Federal Constitutional Court appropriately weighed the legal interests of affected property owners with those of the general public.
The Munich Higher Regional Court recently confirmed that 'delivery' under the Commercial Code essentially means the procurement of direct possession. While the physical seizure of transported goods by a consignee is unnecessary, the goods must be made available to the consignee in such a way that it can, without further obstacles, seize control of the goods. The court also clarified how to classify the unloading of valuable goods in front of an unattended warehouse without an agreement or instructions.
Germany recently implemented the EU Package Travel Directive by updating its travel legislation in the Civil Code. The new law provides that anyone offering at least two travel services is considered a 'package organiser'. The new regime applies to traditional tour operators and air carriers, which may be regarded as package organisers if they offer travel services in addition to flights. Air carriers should review their travel offers to avoid any unexpected obligations and liability.
The Berlin Administrative Court recently considered the action of an environmental association admissible but unfounded. The association had sought a declaration that introducing long trucks or 'gigaliners' to regular operation and extending the trial operation of certain extra-long trucks was illegal. While this judgment strengthens the road transport route, given that the operation of extra-long trucks is limited by the density of the cargo, the use of gigaliners might not affect competition with rail transport.
The Federal Court of Justice recently ruled on two risk exclusion clauses in transport insurance policies that are especially relevant for the export and import industries. While the decision has resolved some of the legal uncertainty surrounding transport insurance, it will likely apply to all types of insurance. As far as risk exclusion clauses are concerned, the court has made it clear that exclusion clauses should be interpreted restrictively.
Although aircraft repossession is used only as a last resort, it remains unfortunately inevitable in some cases. Under German law, there are no self-help rights available to owners in order to take possession of an aircraft. It is possible to obtain interim injunctions or arrest orders before the German courts; however, those require a substantial amount of time to prepare court documents, as the entitlement to the claim must be shown to be prima facie.
A recent European Court of Justice decision presents a major change of case law in Germany with regard to the applicability of EU Regulation 261/2004 to connecting flights departing from an airport situated outside an EU member state. The decision has countered the longstanding position of the Federal Court of Justice, which held that the applicability of the regulation to each flight should be examined separately, even if the flights were operated by the same airline and were booked together.
In its latest decision, the Federal Court of Justice has reiterated that passengers are responsible for their own schedules and must allow sufficient time for airport security checks. The decision may lead to more flexible case-by-case judgments and suggests that airports, airlines and the state are not solely responsible for losses incurred from delays at airport security, but that every passenger has their own obligations and responsibilities.
The Munich Regional Court recently addressed the promotion of error fares by an online portal for cheap flights, hotels and travel packages in Germany. The promotions, which had encouraged customers to book error fares for flights published accidentally by airlines, were deemed unlawful due to a deliberate obstruction of competition in contravention of the Act Against Unfair Competition. The court's decision is appropriate considering the high number of consumers reached by online portals.
The Federal Court of Justice recently clarified the liability of airlines with respect to passenger rights and information obligations when a flight is operated under a wet lease. EU Regulation 261/2004 defines an 'operating air carrier' as an air carrier that performs or intends to perform a flight under a contract with a passenger or on behalf of another person having a contract with that passenger. The Federal Court of Justice held that in case of a wet lease, the lessee must be regarded as the operating air carrier.
The Federal Supreme Court recently issued a decision regarding the right to a refund of the ticket price following the cancellation of non-refundable tariffs. The decision highlights that a passenger can waive his or her right to cancel a ticket so long as that passenger makes an informed decision. This secures an air carrier's flexibility in offering a wide range of different ticket prices and ensures lively competition.