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Delayed passengers set for windfall

A landmark Court of Appeal ruling has opened to door to billions of pounds’ worth of compensation claims for delayed and cancelled flights.

Crowd of people at an airport

Air passengers stand a much greater chance of successfully claiming compensation for flight delays following a landmark Court of Appeal ruling.

The court has this week upheld last year’s decision by Manchester County Court that airlines were still liable to compensate travellers for delays caused by technical faults.

Other cases can proceed

Legal experts have said that the ruling could open the door to more than £6 billion of similar claims.

There were thought to be hundreds of cases on hold in the legal system awaiting the outcome. These can now proceed.

Under EU legislation introduced in 2012, passengers can claim up to £480 for cancellations or delays of at least three hours.

The law states, however, that airlines can turn down claims if the delays were the result of “extraordinary circumstances”.

Weather delays not covered

For example, delays caused by bad weather or volcanic ash would not be eligible for compensation.

But it was the extent of what an airline can claim is "extraordinary" that was the crux of this week’s case.

In October 2012, Ronald Huzar was delayed for more than 24 hours after the Jet2 airliner due to fly him back from Malaga back to Manchester developed a technical fault.

The firm turned down Huzar’s claim for compensation: it said the fault fell under the definition of an extraordinary circumstance which meant it was not liable.

Technical faults ‘not extraordinary’

An initial hearing agreed with Jet2, but last autumn the Manchester court overturned this decision.

Now the Court of Appeal has confirmed that ruling was correct.

David Bott, senior partner at Huzar’s law firm Bott & Co, said this week’s judgement stated that while technical issues may be unforeseeable, they are an inherent part of running an airline.

"They cannot therefore be considered to be an extraordinary circumstance," he said.

Airlines ‘must not ignore obligations’

"The interpretation of the regulation has been clarified today, and airlines should no longer ignore their obligations when dealing with people who have suffered a delayed flight due to technical problems.

"Mr Huzar was the subject of extreme inconvenience for 27 hours.

"Rather than fulfilling its mandatory obligations under the regulations, the airline instead chose to instruct four barristers and two sets of solicitors over three court hearings in order to defend a claim worth approximately £350.”

Bott added: "I sincerely hope that the days of airlines refusing their passengers rights to financial redress with defences such as frayed carpets and broken toilets as extraordinary circumstances are behind us."

Chance to re-submit claims

He encouraged any passengers who have had a previous claim turned down on technical grounds to resubmit their case.

Compensation payments apply to EU-based airlines or to flights which land in or depart from the EU.

The amount that can be claimed depends on the distance due to be travelled: for short trips of up to 1,500km (930 miles), a delay of three hours or longer entitles passengers to €250 (just over £200 at today’s exchange rate).

Between 1,500km and 3,500km (2,175 miles), the amount rises to €400 (£325).

For flights longer than this, delays of between three and four hours can result in claims for €300 (£240).

A delay of four hours or more on a long flight means a possible €600 (£480).

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Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is the former personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris