Jet2 flight delay ruling ‘opens floodgates’ to claims

Topics: Energy, utilities and transport,Courts business

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The Court of Appeal today opened the way for potentially millions of claims against airlines that have run late services.

A judgment handed down in Huzar v Jet2.com found that the claimant’s flight delay was caused by technical problems that could not be defined as ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

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Ron Huzar was delayed for 27 hours flying from Manchester to Malaga after a wiring defect was found in the aircraft.

Huzar represented himself in a £350 compensation claim at Stockport County Court last June but lost in the first instance. North-west firm Bott & Co successfully appealed on his behalf at Manchester County Court in October before His Honour Judge Platts.

The airline appealed, arguing the technical defect that caused the delay constituted an extraordinary circumstance within the meaning of regulations and, as such, no compensation was due.

Following a hearing last month, Lord Justice Elias said that for an event to be ‘out of the ordinary’ it must ‘stem from events which, by their nature or origin, are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned’.

If the cause of the technical problem, he added, was one ‘inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned’ then it necessarily followed that it is also within the control of the carrier and thus not extraordinary.

Experts estimate around 30% of all delays are due to technical problems, so millions of customers potentially have a greater chance of succeeding in a compensation claim.

A spokesman for Bott & Co said: ‘The judgment in this case is binding on all county courts in England and Wales and it therefore opens the floodgates for passengers to finally recover compensation if their flight has been cancelled or delayed due to technical problems – at least in the vast majority of cases.’

He added that in Huzar’s case the cause of the technical problem was simply wear and tear and the court quite rightly took a ‘commonsense approach’ to say it was not extraordinary.

David Bott, senior partner at Bott & Co, said: ‘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.

‘The airline in this case has long insisted that it wanted clarity on this point of law.

‘The Court of Appeal has today delivered that clarity and 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.’

Readers' comments (20)

  • There business model doesn't allow them the margin to deal fairly with complaints.

    I had an awful experience with Jet2 a number of years ago. Took them to the county court and they instructed DLA and made modest offers to settle. For me the issue was not financial but a matter of principle. They failed to exchange witness statements on receiving mine they settled in full!

    No one at Jet2 nor their lawyers stepped back to look rationally at the situation - I feel it was simply a matter of blindly following company policy "we cannot afford to compensate".

    This is a good common sense decision but fares will rise!

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  • Apologies should have been a "their" up there!!

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  • Good job Bott and co. A compensation system is set up and airlines decide that as its basically off to the small claims track without a lawyer for the claimant they can afford to fob claimants off. Perhaps a little less fobbing off now.

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  • Hope they appeal to the Supreme Court....

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  • The airlines will just adjust their ticket prices to cover such costs. So one man's gain will be another man's loss. That's business for you!

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  • It's not the airlines that are at fault but the idiots at the EU who set levels of compensation that are completely out of proportion to the cost of the fares. If you were paying £1,000 to fly to Magaluf or Marrakesh fair enough, but how can it be proportionate or realistic to make an airline pay you £350 compensation when you've paid them maybe £20 for the flight?

    There should be NO compensation payable. If someone's that bothered about a delay they should take out their own insurance. All this ruling will do is put up the cost of fares for the vast majority of us who don't go grubbing for compensation under every stone of misfortune.

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  • If you take a close look at the ticket terms and conditions (in particular " Ryan Air"), you will note that you were already paying over 2 euros into a pot for dealing with compensation for this very event. Ironic thing was they were pocketing this and not paying out.

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  • This was all decided in the Alitalia case at the ecj in 2007 - I used the case in 2009 to get my compensation

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  • "This is a good common sense decision but fares will rise!"

    Rubbish. They should be able to run an airline without their 'planes breaking down all the time. If they can't both make a profit and keep their their aircraft properly in good repair, they shouldn't be in business and don't deserve to be.

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  • Compo again. Why can't people just learn that that's life? There are millions of people starving in this world and we whinge just because of a 27 hour plane delay. For God's sake grow up! Personally I would prefer they fixed the plane than risked taking off in a dodgy craft anyway.

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