The Court of Appeal has ruled against an air passenger who tried to claim for compensation when the UK part of her journey from the US to India was delayed.
Kanaka Chelluri had a single booking to travel from Kansas City to Bengaluru in 2019, but the third leg of her journey from London Heathrow to Mumbai was delayed by 48 hours.
In Chelluri v Air India Ltd, Lord Justice Coulson upheld the county court’s judgment that the passenger could not rely on the constituent parts of a booking to claim compensation.
He added that although the sums at stake were modest, the written and oral arguments ‘extended far and wide’ and hundreds of other cases were awaiting the results.
‘Certainly it is possible to imagine that, if the relevant regulation applied to individual stages of much longer overall flights starting outside the EU/UK, there might be a significant increase in the volume of such claims,’ said Coulson LJ.
Chelluri sought to argue that the CJEU decision in Wegener – regarded as an authority for this type of claim – was wrongly decided and that the court should not follow it.
Coulson LJ said there was ‘no principled basis’ to depart from Wegener, which has been repeatedly followed and referred to in subsequent cases.
He added that departing from case law would have ‘profound’ consequences, and result in every flight coming into the UK from the Americas or Asia for an onward destination being liable to claims. The judge said it was ‘both unnecessary and undesirable’ to depart from Wegener to bring about such consequences without the express consideration of parliament.
Following the court’s decision, Jacob Turner of Fountain Court Chambers, who appeared for Air India, said: ‘Had the case been decided in the claimant’s favour, it would have expanded very considerably the scope of compensation for delayed flights. As the Court of Appeal noted in its judgment, the consequences of the claimant’s arguments might have been profound for passengers and airlines.
‘This was one of the first cases to consider when it is appropriate to depart from EU jurisprudence, and the Court of Appeal affirmed that the power should be exercised ‘rarely and sparingly’.’
Harry Gillow, instructed by Haywood Baker Solicitors, appeared for the appellant, Jacob Turner, instructed by Saurabh Bhagotra and Daniel Powell of Zaiwalla & Co, for the defendant.