Application of EU Laws Post-Brexit: Chelluri v Air India Ltd

By Tan Wei Heng


https://theconversation.com/fact-check-are-60-of-uk-laws-really-imposed-by-the-eu-58516


The case of Chelluri v Air India Ltd [1] concerns whether an airline must pay EU-mandated compensation as a result of delays in one of the legs/stops of a multi-stop journey.


Facts


Chelluri was travelling by air from Kansas City to Detroit, Detroit to London, London to Mumbai, followed by Mumbai to Bengaluru (four legs / four trips). During the third leg (London to Mumbai), the flight was delayed by approximately 48 hours, causing Chelluri to miss her connecting flight to Bengaluru by nearly two full days. As such, Chelluri made a claim for the whole journey under EU Regulation 261/04, which “provides a compensation mechanism for delayed and cancelled flights”. [2] The present case was an appeal against the District Judge’s finding against Chelluri.


Held


The Court of Appeal upheld the district court’s decision and found in favour of Air India. It held:

  1. “[A] flight from X to Y by air, which comprises more than one leg, is to be treated as a whole”. [3]

  2. “Non-EU/UK carriers are caught under Article 3(1)(a) if the single booking initially departs from the EU/UK, no matter where the journey ends. If, however, the single booking with a non-EU/UK carrier departs from outside the EU/UK, it is not covered by the Regulation, wherever it lands along the way.” [4]


Legal Significance


The effect of the claim is that “where a flight operated by a non-UK carrier is delayed departing the UK, passengers holding through reservations starting and ending outside the UK do not have a claim under Regulation 261”. [5] If the claim had succeeded, airlines could have expected a multitude of claims against them. These would have crippled the current fragile airline industry, as a result of the substantial economic impact of COVID-19. Furthermore, the courts have affirmed that the power to depart from the Court of Justice of the European Union should only be exercised “rarely and sparingly”. [6]





References:

[1] [2021] EWCA Civ 1953

[2] Ibid [8]

[3] Ibid [57]

[4] Ibid [65]

[5] Simon Phippard, ‘Wegener rules: a “single booking” cuts both ways’, (twobird, January 2022) <https://www.twobirds.com/en/news/articles/2022/uk/wegener-rules-a-single-booking-cuts-both-ways>

[6] Chelluri (n1) [61]