Gillie Belsham Global Head of Aviation, Joint Head of Energy & Infrastructure, Partner
European Commission confirms that the Brussels attacks were "extraordinary circumstances" for the purposes of Regulation 261
On the morning of 22 March 2016, three coordinated nail bombings occurred in Belgium: two at Brussels Airport in Zaventem; and one at Maalbeek metro station in Brussels. 32 people were murdered and over 300 people were injured.
Another bomb was found during a search of the airport. The attacks were the deadliest act of terrorism in Belgium’s history. The airport remained closed until Sunday 3 April.
We must regrettably acknowledge that terrorist attacks are, to some extent, to be anticipated and that aviation has been a major target of such attacks. Numerous pieces of EU and domestic legislation have been implemented across the globe with a view to making air transport safer and preventing such attacks from succeeding – as we are reminded by the limits on liquids allowed in carry-on baggage and additional security screening.
It was helpful therefore, not to mention correct, that the day following the attacks and despite a raft of recent case law diminishing all but a very small number of the “extraordinary circumstances” defences, that the EU Commission issued an Information Statement to passengers due to fly in or out of Brussels airports in which the Commission officially and publicly recorded the events in Brussels as “extraordinary circumstances” for the purposes of Regulation (EC) 261/2004. Whilst this is unquestionably the correct position, it is welcome in any event.
ACCORDING TO THE AIR PASSENGER RIGHTS REGULATION (261/2004), EVEN IN CASE OF CANCELLATION DUE TO EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES, SUCH AS THE EVENT AT BRUSSELS AIRPORT ON 22 MARCH,THE OPERATING AIR CARRIER HAS TO PROVIDE TIMELY INFORMATION AND ASSISTANCE.
Information to passengers flying from/to Brussels Airport (30/03/2016)
In recent months, the English County Courts have determined that both lightning strike and bird strike could no longer be deemed to be extraordinary, since there are design features in aircraft and at airports to enable aircraft to avoid and/or withstand such occurrences. In our view, both of these should still be deemed to be extraordinary circumstances. It is therefore welcome news that terrorist attacks remain so.
Related news & insights
Insights / A flying start for the restructuring plan
06-01-2021 / Aviation & Travel
Alex Rogan looks at the maiden flight of the restructuring plan, highlighting the practical considerations for future cases.
News / Incisive Law featured on the September issue of Asian Legal Business
18-09-2020 / Aviation & Travel
We are pleased to have been featured in the September issue of the Asian Legal Business Magazine.
Insights / Counter-Drone Tech and the Challenges Thereof
27-08-2020 / Aviation & Travel
Drone detection technologies have been a blind spot for most governments across the world, and it gains significance in the current times considering that drones are now being used for commercial purposes.
Insights / Drones – A New Frontier
13-08-2020 / Aviation & Travel
Unmanned Aircraft Systems / Vehicles (UAS UAV - or Drones, as they are commonly known) refer primarily to an unmanned aircraft which is guided by a remote control.
News / Fixing of domestic airfares by Indian government: a mode to be replicated by other countries?
04-06-2020 / Aviation & Travel
Setting aside our aspersions on the manner in which domestic air travel was recommenced in India – by way of a tweet by the aviation minister catching the airlines unawares - the government’s decision to “control” the ticket prices, at least in the short term (3 months), is, I feel, a masterstroke.
News / Update on the impact of the Coronavirus on the Aviation Industry
06-03-2020 / Aviation & Travel
Impact The COVID-19 outbreak has already had a severe impact on the aviation sector. “Air traffic has collapsed on key Asian routes and it is rippling throughout the air transport network globally, even between countries without major outbreaks of COVID-19.” Flybe yesterday announced its collapse, in part it says due to the effect of coronavirus upon bookings. Airlines are experiencing a serious decline in demand: “one carrier has taken a 26% reduction in passenger numbers across its entire operation and a major carrier has reported booking to Italy collapsing to zero with customers demanding refunds. Many carriers are reporting 50% no-shows across several markets, future bookings are softening and carriers are reacting with flight cancellation, crew being given unpaid leave, freezing of pay increases and plans for aircraft to be grounded.”