AIRLINES don’t have to refund passengers whose flights have to be diverted because of onboard brawls, the EU’s top court has ruled.
Euro judges said incidents of air rage are an “extraordinary circumstance” carriers can use to justify not coughing up.
The decision will affect Brits who use European airlines to jet away on their summer holidays.
Brussels rules entitle travellers to compensation if their flight is delayed by three hours or more.
But companies can swerve the obligation if they can prove the problems were caused by circumstances beyond their control.
The issue came before the European Court of Justice after a dispute between a passenger and a Portuguese airline.
It refused to refund customers after having to divert a flight from Brazil to Norway via Lisbon due to an onboard fracas.
A passenger started biting one person on board before assaulting fellow travellers and flight crew who tried to calm the situation.
The delay caused many people to miss their connections in the Portuguese capital.
In its judgement the Luxembourg-based court upheld the airline’s decision to not to grant them refunds.
It said carriers can only justify not giving compensation if they put people on the next available direct or indirect flight to their final destination.
Judges added airlines are also liable if they could have foreseen the trouble – such as allowing a visibly drunk or angry customer on board.
The International Air Transport Association has warned air rage incidents are on the rise, with more than 66,000 reported in 2017.
Last month, an Iberia Express flight to Gran Canaria from Madrid saw incensed travellers arguing with a flight attendant, demanding to know why the airline had not seated people two metres apart.
Another air rage incident last month was captured on video as two men grappled with each other after one of them pushed past other passengers during the flight.