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Let's a assume a flight from the US to Europe with two legs: A transatlantic and a short connection inside the EU. The ticket is sold and the transatlantic is operated by the marketing carrier, say Lufthansa. The connection is on a different operating carrier, let's say Aegean.

Now Aegean cancels the connection and the whole itinerary becomes unviable. Who would be required to issue a refund and who should the passenger contact? Looking at the letter of the law it would the "operating carrier" which is Aegean in this case. However, Lufthansa has the customers money and owns the itinerary. In a more complex itinerary involving multiple airlines, only the marketing carrier would be able to untangle the individual fares of the different airlines.

Let's say that the ticket was $1100: $1000 for the transatlantic and $100 for the connection. If Aegean is liable they need to come up with $1100 even though the value of what they sold is only $100. Lufthansa has the $1000 but they haven't done anything wrong, since they didn't cancel anything.

How is this supposed to work?

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That should be an issue between the airlines, and spelled out in the contract they made with each other. It could be anything - whatever they decided to contract on.

Either way, it should not be your problem - whoever took your money is responsible for fulfilling the contract with you - or pay it back.

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    Thanks. Can you provide some source, reference or example case to support your answer? The law eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/… reads somewhat differently. Compensation is clearly responsibility of the operating carrier, not the marekting carrier. But it's less clear about reimbursement. – Hilmar Jan 15 at 22:49
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    @Hilmar Reimbursement seems just as clear to me. There are two references to article 8, in article 5 and 6, both of which mention the “operating carrier”. However, I would not assume that the phrase “operating carrier” in the regulation necessarily means exactly the same as it does in the airline industry. – Relaxed Jan 15 at 23:09
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    @Relaxed The terms are defined in the regulation's article 2 and 'operating carrier' does mean exactly what it sounds like. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jan 15 at 23:34
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo Indeed but that definition, while reasonably intuitive, is also subject to interpretation by the courts and not necessarily aligned with the way the phrase is used in other contexts. I am thinking about decisions like C-532/17. I am not sure how much of a departure from the usual terminology this represents (isn't TUIFly the marketing carrier?) but, unsurprisingly, the court is not shy about (re)defining the notion based on other considerations. – Relaxed Jan 16 at 9:36
  • Should I rather post this on law.stackexchange.com ? This is question is a follow up from a different post. Condor (marketing carrier) claims they don't owe a refund since LH (operating carrier) cancelled, and LH is on the hook. See travel.stackexchange.com/questions/162094/… – Hilmar Jan 16 at 13:51

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