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Tennis player wins EU right to carry rackets on plane

An Austrian tennis player won a bizarre case at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) yesterday (Tues) after being thrown off a plane because he had his rackets with him.

Vienna resident Gottfried Heinrich was thrown off a flight to Antalya, Turkey, at Vienna International Airport in 2005 for having his tennis rackets with him – after having already cleared general-security screening.

Heinrich was going to Antalya with his local tennis club for a hobby tournament.

ECJ judges ruled the unpublished European Union (EU) register of hand-luggage restrictions could not be enforced because passengers had no way of knowing exactly what was prohibited. The EU register does not specifically ban rackets from the cabin. However, it contains a catch-all prohibition of "any blunt instrument capable of causing injury".

The EU eventually published the secret list last year, finally explaining why passengers had found that skateboards, golf clubs and fishing rods were not allowed in cabins.

Heinrich was so angry that he brought a compensation case against the Austrian authorities for having failed to inform him he was carrying banned items.

The Austrian court said the matter was of such great importance to all airline passengers in the European Union that it referred the case to the ECJ in Luxembourg. After winning his case yesterday, Heinrich is now able to pursue his compensation case at a Vienna court.

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