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’.
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.’