A new court ruling means passengers shouldn't necessarily go to the airline listed on their booking documents when claiming for delays.

Under EU regulations, a passenger can claim compensation from the 'operating air carrier' when their flight is delayed or cancelled at short notice - but the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that this 'operating air carrier' may not always be the airline on passengers' booking documents if for example, another airline has chartered the flight.

The ECJ ruling centred around a situation where passengers were booked to fly from Hamburg to Cancun with TUIFly, but the company then chartered an aircraft and crew from Thomson Airways, whilst remaining responsible for passengers, cargo handling, security, baggage, arranging on-board services, applying for air traffic control slots, marketing the flights and securing all necessary authorisation to fly.

Passengers' booking confirmations for the flight - which was delayed - said the flight was operated by Thomson Airways, but the ECJ ruled that TUIFly had operational responsibility for the flight, and was therefore liable to pay the compensation.

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Martin Lewis
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What does the ruling mean for me?

The case shows that you can't always assume you claim from the airline that's written on the booking documentation - although in the vast majority of cases you will.

Coby Benson, flight delay solicitor at Bott & Co said the decision ensures that the company which contracts with the passenger and plans the flight will remain liable to pay compensation when significant disruption occurs.

But he added that it might make it more difficult for some passengers to know who to submit their claims to, since they can no longer rely solely on the 'operating air carrier' named on their booking documentation.

If you're refused compensation because another airline was the 'operating carrier' you should hopefully be directed to which airline to claim from, but if not contact the airline which has refused you and ask it which operator you need to claim from.

We contacted TUIFly to see if it wanted to comment on the ruling, and will update this story if we hear back.

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