Airlines have been ordered to pay passengers compensation if flights are delayed. Passengers can claim compensation for past six years
We have all been in a situation where we get to the airport and check-in only to find our flight is delayed for an array of reasons, including feeble excuses. However, the landmark court ruling today clarifies an airlines liability if their planes are delayed.
Currently under European law, airline passengers are entitled to up to £470 in compensation if a flight arrives at their destination more than three hours late. The law states that an airline does not have to pay compensation if the delay is caused by an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ such as industrial action, bad weather or a bird strike.
But – there is always a but – airlines have repeatedly exploited EU rules to avoid paying legitimate claims classing all kinds of reasons for delays as ‘extraordinary circumstances’. This is why the cases brought to the Supreme Court are being called ‘landmark’ cases as they clarify the law and create case law for future cases.
This landmark case is a result of Ronald Huzar, 58, of Stockport and James Dawson, 41, of Peterborough, who originally took two airlines to court after both suffered long delays but both airlines appealed judgements in their favour all the way to the Supreme Court. Mr Huzar took airline Jet2.com to court after suffering a staggering 27 hour delay, whilst Mr Dawson took Thomson Airways to court after his flight to the Dominican Republic on Christmas Day 2006 was delayed six hours 26 minutes.
In both cases Jet2 and Thomson both appealed previous court decisions in the passenger’s favours with Mr Huzar’s case Jet2 arguing: “a technical fault was ‘unforeseeable’ and we shouldn’t have to pay compensation.”
Thomson reason for appealing a previous court decision to pay to Mr Dawsonat was on the grounds that it was outside the two year limitation period for claims under the 1999 Montreal Convention.
The Supreme Court judges though ruled that a wiring defect was not an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ and that Jet2.com must pay.
After today’s ruling Mr Huzar said: ‘I am absolutely delighted with the decision. After everything I have been through to get to this point it’s a fantastic day.
‘I always hoped that we would get a positive outcome and it’s nice to get to this milestone. The result in my favour should help passengers throughout the country who have experienced similar difficulties to me.’
In the case of James Dawson whose case was based on the two year limitation period for claims under the 1999 Montreal Convention was thrown out. Lord Justice Moore-Bick unanimously agreed that claims can be made up to six years after the event under European law meaning Mr Dawson, can keep his original award of £975 plus interest, totalling £1,488.73.
The ruling means two million passengers a year whose flights are delayed by technical faults can now claim for compensation. When you consider claims can now be made for the last six years, solicitors Bott & Co who represented the passengers, said: “today’s decision affects more than 11m passengers”.
Lawyer David Bott, who represented the passengers, said this is a landmark day following a six-year battle between airlines and passengers with the industry now expected to have to pay out £3.89billion for historic claims.
Mr Bott continued: “Airlines will be made to face up to their legal responsibility and pay out fair compensation to those who have suffered.
“We’d expect hundreds of thousands of people to now come forward and make a claim.”
Judges rejected separate appeals from airlines Jet2.com and Thomson, which had been taken to court by angry holidaymakers.
How to claim if your flight is delayed
To claim compensation you MUST arrive at your destination more than three hours late. If your departure is delayed by three and a half hours, but you arrive two hours and fifty five minutes late at your destination because the airline caught up time, you won’t be entitled to claim.
COVERED FOR THE FOLLOWING EVENTS
1. Airline staff such as pilots and/or who are late.
2. Departure is delayed because the flight is understaffed
3. Denied boarding because the flight has been overbooked
4. Bad weather that affected the previous departure meaning your aircraft was delayed
5. Technical problems with an aircraft with the exclusion of hidden manufacturing defects or any delays due to sabotage
If you do arrive at your destination 3 hours or more late always complain in writing to your airline. To avoid delays always include your name, booking reference number and flight number. In your complaint to your airline cite EU Regulations 261/2004 and be clear you are writing to request compensation. Always enclose copies (keep originals) of any boarding passes and receipts.
NOT COVERED FOR THE FOLLOWING EVENTS
1. Acts of terrorism or sabotage
2. Political or civil unrest
3. Security risks
4. Hidden manufacturing defects
5. Extreme weather conditions such as volcanic ash cloud
6. Bird strikes
7. Industrial action
Compensation available is as follows:
Under 1,500km (932 miles) entitles you to £168, 1,500km to 3,500km (932 to 2,174 miles) £313 and over 3,500km (2,174 miles).
A delay up to 4 hours would entitle you to £235 with delays in excess of 4 hours entitles you to £470
If a claim is rejected you can contact the CAA at:
Telephone: 0207 453 6888
Address: CAA House, 49-55 Kingsway, London. WC2B 6TE
Andrew Haines, chief executive of watchdog the Civil Aviation Authority, said: “Where airlines have put claims on hold, the CAA expects airlines to revisit them and pay compensation for any eligible claims.”
A spokesman for Thomson said: “We are surprised and disappointed to note the decision of the Supreme Court as we believe our position is sound in law. We will now review this position based on the court’s decision.”
Jet2.com did not want to provide a comment.
Again it just goes to show that it only take one or two people to stand their ground and change can happen. My only concern is if this will result in an increase in ticket prices or will airlines just increase the allotted time to reach a destination?