Published on Thursday, June 12, 2014

Compensation claims flood in after landmark ruling over flight delays

Law firms are being inundated with enquiries from air passengers who are seeking compensation for delays caused by technical faults following a landmark ruling yesterday.

A Court of Appeal judgement yesterday means airlines may no longer be able to use technical faults as a blanket excuse to avoid compensating passengers for flight delays.

The ruling opens the floodgate to thousands of claims from passengers who have been refused compensation by airlines for delays caused by mechanical breakdowns.

Jet2, the airline involved in the case, said immediately that it will take the matter to the Supreme Court "to seek clarity and consistency".

It has 28 days to lodge an appeal to the Supreme Court and then it could be several months before a decision on whether to grant the appeal is made.

"We're hugely disappointed that they are trying to prolong this matter," said Rochelle Bugg, a spokeswoman for Bott & Co, the no win, no fee law firm representing the passenger in this case.

"Jet2 has constantly said they wanted clarity and that was provided today."

She added that based on anecdotal evidence, only one in 10 applications for appeal are successful.

Under the EU flight compensation rules, airlines don't have to compensate passengers if a delay is caused by "exceptional circumstances" and airlines have argued that this includes technical faults.

But Lord Justice Elias yesterday upheld a ruling of the Court of Appeal in Manchester which ordered Jet2 to compensate passenger Ronald Huzar for a flight that was delayed 27 hours due to a wiring defect in the fuel valve circuit.

In his ruling, the judge said that technical faults could only be considered as "out of the ordinary" if they "stem from events which, by their nature or origin, are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned".

He added: "In the context of technical problems one must crucially ask what caused the technical problem. If the cause of the technical problem is one which is 'inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned' then it necessarily follows that it is also within the control of the carrier and therefore not extraordinary.

"In Mr Huzar's case the cause of the technical problem was simply wear and tear and the Court quite rightly took a common sense approach to this and held that wear and tear is entirely ordinary and therefore not extraordinary."

Bott & Co said it already has 700 litigated cases involving around 1,750 passengers in progress waiting the outcome of yesterday's ruling, and another 2,000 cases representing around 5,750 passengers on its books ready to issue proceedings.

"Since yesterday's ruling, we have seen a six-fold increase in hits on our website for our flight delay service and yesterday was a record day for use of our claims calculator for people checking if they have an eligible flight," said Bugg.

Bott & Co has issued advice for consumers following the Huzar case, urging them to start their claims as soon as possible.

Another law firm Thomas Eggar urged airlines to look at their businesses to ensure that they have built-in to their ticket prices and preserved a contribution to any potential flight delay compensation claims. 

"In the long term, this may mean that flight prices rise as airlines try and cope with the probable increase in compensation claims," said partner Hannah Clipston.

Jet2 described the judgement as "disappointing".

"The Judge noted that the issue "is not without some difficulty," and as such we are taking the dispute to the Supreme Court," it said in a statement.

 "The European National Enforcement Bodies have agreed that unexpected technical defects, such as the one in this case, are outside of the control of airlines, and would therefore be considered extraordinary for the purposes of compensation. The ongoing European review of EC261/04 also recognises this.  

 "Today's ruling will only cause further confusion for passengers and airlines, which is why we will continue to seek clarity and consistency by appealing directly to a higher court.  

 "We regret any inconvenience to passengers.  We are always committed to getting them to their destination on time.  Our focus is to deliver a friendly service and low fares to our customers and we sincerely hope that this will not be jeopardised by today's ruling."


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  • The End of Cheap Flights?

    Years ago I was talking to an American lawyer about an infamous Boston tour operator whose delays and misleading advertising were notorious throughout the industry. He travelled with this company frequently and I asked him why they didn't get sued. His reply was that he and the other lawyers in Boston would rather have the incredibly cheap deals than put them out of business and have prices go up and so advised clients not to sue. I wonder if the travelling public will have cause to regret this ruling when, inevitably, prices go up to pay for the compensation that people will now expect?

    By Martin Drew, Wednesday, November 2, 2016

  • Something for nothing

    I think this judgement is flawed and well done to Jet2 for pursuing it. In the meantime every Tom Dick and Harriet is coming out of the woodwork aided by the very bottom of the legal profession(sic). Its they who should be ashamed of themselves instead they lick their lips at the vast fees they hope to make and then have the effontery to say this will hoist up already high ticket prices..There is a word for them In the meantime out society moves further away from `Stuff happens and deal with it` we used to be good at...Still greed always comes to the fore doesnt it

    By paul howgate, Thursday, June 12, 2014

  • Throwing good money after bad

    I'm surprised that Jet2 have the spare cash for an appeal to the UK Supreme Court, which would have no chance of success. There have already been multiple European Court judgments making it very clear that the view taken by the Appeal Court in this test case is the view that would be taken if it were appealed beyond the UK. Airlines must simply take out their own insurance against these eventualities (or decide to self-insure). They can get a much cheaper deal per flight than could individual pax.

    By Peter Lewis, Thursday, June 12, 2014

  • Jet2 and 'others'

    Yes Jet2 this ruling may have a significant impact on the Airline Industry as it will hopefully go some way to ensuring scheduled flights (such as yours) run to a schedule to the satisfaction of the consumer rather than to your whims. The report mentions that the NEB's state problems such as Mr Huzar's are outside the control of the airlines however you are surely aware that in the case of Mr Huzar they specifically and unreservedly supported his claim! You mention your focus is to deliver a friendly service with low fares - perhaps friendly, low fares and on time should be your focus as the on time element seems to have slipped your mind. Going to the Supreme Court to see clarity and consistency? You already have it but won't accept it. You continue to lose this case in Stockport, Manchester and now London thus adding considerable costs to your Company and thus your passengers. Why, therefore, do you continue with this futile rejection of an EU law? The only reason I can think is that you do not want to compensate your passengers for your frequently delayed planes, although you know you should, and now you will make them suffer a little longer whilst you play your legal games. Man up and accept your responsibilities in life ...... same goes for Monarch Airlines!

    By Harry Cole, Thursday, June 12, 2014

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