Air passengers’ rights: national authorities are not required to act on individual complaints

On 17 March 2016, the European Court of Justice ruled, in Joined Cases C-145/15 and C-146/15 Ruijssennaars e Jansen, on the power of the body responsible for the enforcement of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 when a flight is cancelled, to act on individual complaint brought by a passenger against air carrier, which systematically refuses to pay compensation to him.

Since any passenger may lodge a complaint before that body about an infringement of the regulation and the latter can impose sanctions for that infringement, the Court believes that an interpretation of the terms “sanction” and “complaint” is needed, in order to answer to the question referred. In Court’s view, the term “complaint” should be regarded as a form of alert signal intended to contribute to the proper application of the regulation in general, without that body being required to act on such complaints in order to guarantee each individual passenger’s right to obtain compensation. As regards the term ‘sanction’, this refers to the measures adopted in response to the infringements which the body identifies in the course of its general monitoring activities, not to administrative enforcement action to be taken in each individual case.

As a consequence, the Court finds that the competent national body is not required to take enforcement action against air carriers with a view to compelling them to pay the compensation provided for in Regulation No 261/2004. However, that power may be given to them by national legislation.