There are lots of ways to pass time during an unexpected flight delay in Europe: catch up on emails, stream a new Netflix documentary, or sip a cocktail. If you opt for that last one, though, don’t expect compensation from the airline.
A German court recently ruled that airlines aren’t required to reimburse the costs of alcoholic beverages during a delay, according to translated court documents. In the case of a flight cancellation, overbooking, or extended layover (two or more hours from original departure), the European Union’s Air Passenger Rights Ordinance states that airlines must offer to cover “meals and refreshments in reasonable proportion to the waiting time” — and alcohol doesn’t count.
According to the court documents for the case in question, two passengers were recently denied reimbursement from an unnamed airline for two Aperol Spritzes enjoyed at a London airport. Their initial flight from Hanover to Miami included a three-hour delay, and when their return flight to Hanover (which included stops in New York and London) was canceled, the pair instead took an alternate flight from Madrid to Hamburg. A train connected them to their destination, making their total return trip delay last four and a half hours.
During the round trip, the two passengers spent €20.80 ($22.70 USD) in Madrid and €88 ($96.02 USD) in London. The pair claims they weren’t offered refreshments and meals from the airline itself, entitling them to pay for their own meals and apply for compensation later. They ordered two Aperol Spritzes in London, which totaled €17.67 ($19.28).
When the pair applied for reimbursement for the meals, drinks, initial flight delay, and canceled return flight, the airline allegedly disputed the alcoholic drinks included in their compensation claim. The two plaintiffs pursued a lawsuit at Hanover’s district court, where a judge ruled that alcoholic drinks aren’t classified as “refreshments” due to their dehydrating nature.
“In the opinion of the court seised, the wording ‘refreshment’ prohibits subsuming alcoholic beverages, the effect of which should usually be the opposite,” the translated document states.
So while an Aperol Spritz might be a bright and bubbly addition to an otherwise frustrating experience, maybe think twice before calling it a “refreshment” in court.