The European Regions Airline Association has accused the European Commission of putting passenger rights before air safety.

ERA director general Mike Ambrose said the problems have arisen after a decision by the European Court of Justice earlier this week setting a legal precedent for airlines to pay compensation for flights cancelled for technical reasons was welcomed by the European Commission.

He said: “I am appalled that the European Commission has welcomed this ill-conceived judgement from the ECJ.

Members of the ECJ cannot be expected to understand the serious safety implications of their judgement: the European Commission can.

“The ECJ judgement applies needless commercial pressure on crews to accept operations that might comply with all existing safety regulations but which, when all circumstances are considered, are contrary to the aircraft commander’s instincts and experience for safe flight.

“The primary ‘passenger right’ is to expect safe travel – passenger rights are of trivial importance compared to the ongoing airline objective of maintaining public safety.

“For decades, European air transport has been successful in encouraging all personnel concerned with air safety, especially operating crews, to identify and report issues that negatively affect the safety of operations: the ECJ ruling risks undermining years of progress in improving safety performance.

“Urgent action is needed by the European Commission to mitigate this flawed and ill-informed decision by the ECJ.”