Anyone hoping for compensation after an accident while boarding or disembarking from an airplane has good cards. According to an ECJ ruling, it is primarily the airline that has the obligation to provide evidence.

The European Court of Justice gives passengers after a fall on an airplane stairs hope for compensation.

The ECJ announced on Thursday in Luxembourg that the airline is only released from its liability if it can prove that the passenger’s behavior contributed to the accident. To what extent this is the case would have to be decided by national courts (Case C-589/20).

The background is a case from Austria. A passenger fell on a mobile staircase while disembarking from a plane for no apparent reason and broke her forearm. She sued for compensation for pain and suffering in the amount of almost 4700 euros and compensation for paying a domestic help.

According to the court, the woman was traveling with her husband and their two-year-old son on the flight. As she descended the stairs, she carried a purse in her right hand and her son on her left arm. The ECJ emphasized that the fact that the woman did not hold on to one of the handrails of the stairs could have contributed to the accident. However, it should not be forgotten that the woman was traveling with an underage child whose safety she had to ensure.

Slippery stairs after drizzle

The airline argues that the woman saw her husband nearly fall in front of her and still did not hold on. The woman, on the other hand, emphasizes that she used the stairs very carefully after she saw that her husband had almost fallen. The stairs were slippery, among other things, because of the drizzle.

A court dealing with the case in Austria contradicted the representation. The TÜV-tested stairs had no defects, nor were they slippery, oily or greasy. Other passengers would not have complained about the condition of the stairs. The airline pointed out that the treads on the stairs were perforated or grooved, so that the water ran off quickly.

According to the ECJ, it is also relevant for the assessment of the case that the woman did not seek treatment directly after the accident, which may have worsened the injury. In this context, however, it should also be taken into account how severe the injuries appeared at the time and what information the passenger received from the medical staff on site.