New court ruling on flight delay compensation could cost airlines billions

Gatwick Delays © Alamy

Gatwick Delays © Alamy

Two supreme court rulings that allows customers to claim up to six years after they have experienced a delayed flight, could force airlines to pay out billions.

Supreme Court Rulings

Lawyers stated that the rulings in the Huzar vs Jet2 and Dawson vs Thomson cases have now set precedents that could open the floodgates for others to claim. Airline appeals against the judgments were rejected in what is being described as a ‘landmark’ hearing.

From now on, airlines will have to pay out compensation up to six years after a flight is delayed, even if the delay has been caused by a technical fault. This means that mechanical or electrical problems are no longer viable reasons for an aircraft to be late in taking off.

It is thought that these new rulings on flights affected by technical faults, where in the past the airlines were exempt from paying out, could now see an estimated two million compensation claims every year in the UK, at around £876 million.

It was this kind of fault that affected Ronald Huzar. The 58 year-old from Stockport was delayed for 27 hours during his flight from Malaga to Manchester, when the aircraft from Jet2 developed a technical fault.

Jet2 had claimed the malfunction constituted an “extraordinary circumstance” beyond its control, but the court rejected its appeal.

After his victory 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.”

The ruling will also allow historical claims to be made from disgruntled customers dating back to 2008. It is here that the most damage wil be done, with conservative estimates being guessed at £4 billion.

James Dawson was also delayed by six-and-a-half hours at Gatwick Airport in 2006, where he was due to fly to the Dominican Republic on Christmas Day. Dawson however, did not file a claim against Thomson until 2012.

The airline argued that he had to have filed within two years of the event, but the court rejected their appeal, stating that passengers now have six years in which to apply.

Now, each passenger, who has experienced a delay of over three hours, is entitled to be compensated by the airline (depending on how long the flight is) by up to £470 (€600). This is so long as the cause of the delay is within the airline’s control.

David Bott, Senior Partner at Bott & Co, said: “This is a landmark day not just for Mr Huzar and Mr Dawson but for passengers everywhere. Two journeys which started with a delay have now finished, nearly eight years later in Mr Dawson’s case.

“If you’ve previously submitted a claim to the airline but have been turned down on the grounds of a technical defect or because your claim is more than two years old, we recommend you resubmit your claim.”

Jet2 Court Ruling responses

A Thomson spokesman said: “We believe that it is reasonable to expect that those who perceive they have suffered a real loss as a result of an unfortunate delay should be able to make their claim within two years. 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 have not yet made a statement on the ruling.

Although this is a landmark ruling for the customer, there are already murmurs within the industry that certain budget airlines would be most affected, and this could mark the end of cheaper flights.

Nathan Stower, chief executive of the British Air Transport Association, said: “Today’s Supreme Court decision is both surprising and disappointing. UK airlines support the principle of passenger protection and always meet their legal obligations.

“However, the rules should be clear, affordable and proportionate for the sake of passengers and airlines. The current system fails those tests and this decision will further increase costs which ultimately are borne by all passengers.”

Source: The Telegraph

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