BRUSSELS, May 4 (Reuters) - Airlines might not have to pay compensation for flight delays if an aircraft is held up as a result of a bird strike, Europe's top court said on Thursday, calling such an event an "extraordinary circumstance".
The case was brought to the European Court of Justice after a complaint by Czech passengers who argued they should have been paid compensation under EU rules when their plane was more than five hours late because of a bird strike.
"A collision between an aircraft and a bird is an extraordinary circumstance within the meaning of the regulation," the court said.
Under EU law passengers are entitled to compensation if their flights are delayed by three hours or more.
However, the court noted that the overall delay in the Czech case was extended because the airline insisted that a second check be carried out by an inspector, calling this check unnecessary.
If a delay is the sum of such an extraordinary event and another delay, such as a technical problem, it must be deducted from the total delay to assess whether compensation is due, the court added. (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop, Greg Mahlich)