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Airlines face the prospect of more compensation claims from passengers for delayed flights as the European Courts of Justice determined what constitutes flight arrival time.

The ECJ ruled that the actual arrival time of a flight corresponds to the time at which at least one of the doors of the aircraft is opened.

The judgment was passed today in answer to the question raised by?budget airline Germanwings which had sought to avoid paying €250 compensation after a flight from Salzburg to Cologne/Bonn was delayed.

The airline claimed the actual arrival time was when the aircraft touched down rather than when it reached its parking position – extra time to the flight delay which then triggered the compensation payment.

Adeline Noorderhaven, manager of flight compensation specialist EUclaim in the UK, said: “The decision will have an immense effect on airlines.

“On average the time from landing (touchdown) to taxing to the gate where the chocks are applied through to when the aircraft door is opened can be anything from 20 minutes upwards; every airport is different and these times therefore can vary dramatically.

“With arrival time now set at when the doors open these additional minutes will make a dramatic difference to journey time and could see airlines having to pay out hefty compensation to passengers for delayed f