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Published on Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Court rules airlines are responsible for delays caused by passengers

Airlines could be forced to compensate customers for long delays caused by other passengers following a ruling against Thomas Cook.

However, the airline insisted the case didn't set a precedent and it didn't mean carriers would have to compensate passengers for the seemingly increasing number of delays caused by unruly or drunken behaviour.

Birmingham County Court ordered Thomas Cook to pay passenger Maria Edwards €1,068 after her family of four endured a nine-hour delay to its flight home from Tunisia in 2014.

Thomas Cook had initially refused to compensate passengers on the flight, offering only a €5 meal voucher per passenger, because it claimed the delay was caused by another passenger accidentally damaging an emergency door handle on an earlier flight.

The company said the flight was held up while it waited for replacement parts to be flown from France and for three years it has been fighting against Edwards' compensation claim.

However, Birmingham County Court ruled the family was entitled to compensation under EU Regulation 261/2004.

According to flight delay compensation company EUclaim, the Court said Thomas Cook had not met its obligations to Ms Edwards. "The judge ruled that the operational effectiveness of the Thomas Cook's fleet was the sole responsibility of the airline, regardless of whether they directly caused the disruption," it said.

Adeline Noordehaven, EUclaim's UK manager, indicated the ruling might lead to claims for compensation from customers whose flights have been delayed by disruptive passengers.

"The passenger who caused this delay was not disruptive or unruly and the damage occurred during his 'normal use of the aircraft', but it still opens up an interesting debate on where passenger responsibility begins and ends for airlines.

"For example, a passenger consuming a glass of wine served on board would be considered 'normal use of the aircraft', but what about when one glass turns into three and the passenger becomes intoxicated? This ruling could open the door to a whole new type of delay compensation."

In response to her comments, Thomas Cook released the following statement: "We're always extremely sorry for any delay and our main focus is on getting our passengers to and from holiday on time and in just three years our long delays have dropped from four percent to less than one percent making us one of the highest performing airlines in the industry.

"The claim of a landmark ruling lacks credibility because County Court judgments cannot create legal precedents.

"We do not believe a comparison can be made between unintentional passenger damage and disruptive passenger claims. We have recently successfully defended cases of a similar nature where district judges have ruled that passenger damage is an extraordinary circumstance.

"We have also successfully defended cases of disruptive passengers."

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  • Responsible?

    Is there going to be ANY ruling where the passenger is at fault, or are we going to see a huge increase in fares to cover all and any claim by a passenger whose flight has been disrupted? Unfortunately, 99.9% of those who cause the disruption can just about afford the flight so asking them for the compensation would be useless!

    By Elaine Molyneux, Thursday, April 28, 2016

  • Drunks

    A while ago THAI International at Brisbane refused to board several pax who were drunk. The other pax boarding were full of praise for TG's action. In the past few years on TG, SQ and MH I have not seen the problems that used to exist with drunks on flights. Maybe I have just been lucky.

    By Ken COULTER, Wednesday, April 27, 2016

  • Drunks on board

    All airlines have to be made financially responsible for allowing drunk and disorderly passengers on to their planes and indeed allowing passengers to become that way. Sadly we have in the last two years suffered from drunks on board and I am sure many others have too.

    By Paul Johnston, Wednesday, April 27, 2016

  • Deja vu ?

    I've heard of this reason being used by Thomas Cook on numerous occasions. My flight from Antalya to Stansted, 13 August 2015 was delayed due to the exact same reason, along with at least a further 5 flights on the same / following day. Thomas Cook agreed to settle with me out of court after I argued that accidental damage caused by a non-disruptive passenger was inherent in their normal operations. I also discovered that subsequent flights also delayed due to damage caused on the original flight (so-called 'knock-on' delays) cannot be considered 'extraordinary circumstances'. If this type of damage is as common as it appears to be, maybe Thomas Cook should review the design of the handle or at least review the method of how they seat passengers in the emergency door locations?

    By Steven Ward, Wednesday, April 27, 2016

  • who runs these county courts ?

    Morons ? quote "delay was caused by another passenger accidentally damaging an emergency door handle on an earlier flight." then this passenger is responsible. Aircraft can't take off if emergency doors not functioning properly or you might get depressurisation at 30,000 feet. That would be fun !!!

    By Michael Anderson, Wednesday, April 27, 2016

  • Ludicrous

    EU261 is getting more ridiculous by the day.

    By Robert Meehan, Wednesday, April 27, 2016

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