FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Travel and tourism group TUI (TUIT.L) must pay passengers compensation over disruptions to German flights because of crew members calling in sick in October, a court in Hanover ruled on Wednesday.
The court found in favour of two parties who had sued over delays and a cancellation, ordering TUI to pay them 800 euros (679 pounds) and 2,000 euros respectively, plus interest.
The staff shortages in October followed TUI's announcement of plans to put its German TUIfly airline into a new leisure airline joint venture with parts of Air Berlin (AB1.DE), sparking employee concern over potential job cuts and worsening working conditions.
Many pilots and crew called in sick, forcing TUIfly to cancel dozens of flights during what was a school holiday period for some German federal states, including the one in which TUIfly is based.
TUI's staff returned to work when the company offered to keep pay and conditions unchanged for three years.
The company has refunded the cost of holidays that were cancelled but more than 600 complaints have been filed at the Hanover court by customers seeking additional compensation under European Union rules.
TUI has said that the circumstances were beyond its control so it shouldn't have to pay the compensation.
The court said on Wednesday that TUIfly did not present sufficient evidence to prove that its workers had staged a wildcat strike and did not show that it took all reasonable measures to avoid flight delays.
The ruling does not have any binding effect on the outstanding complaints against TUI.
TUI said on Tuesday that it had incurred costs of 22 million euros as a result of the disruption from workers' sick leave.
It also said it was still in talks with Air Berlin shareholder Etihad and the authorities over the proposed venture and that it would hopefully start in time for the winter flying season from October.
Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by David Goodman