Law firms have a potential market of as many as one million claimants who may be eligible for compensation for delayed flights, it has been suggested.

Personal injury specialist Bott & Co said this week it has recovered €300,000 for 600 clients in the 100 days since launching a flight compensation arm.

Bott Aviation was founded after passengers reported they were unable to secure payouts, despite their flights being delayed by more than three hours, and where delay was not caused by exceptional circumstances such as severe weather. Research by passenger groups has found that just 8% of eligible claims are paid out automatically by airlines.

Paul Hinchliffe, managing partner of Bott & Co, said the aviation market has huge untapped promise for law firms. ‘We were looking for an alternative area of law to develop core competencies and this came along at the right time,’ he said.

‘Around 1-2% of flights qualify on the face of it, and of those we would expect half to have no prospect of winning. That leaves around a million potential claimants per year going through UK airports.’

Hinchliffe said improved technology systems mean a team of three can work on 4,000 cases at any one time. Compensation payments range from €250 to €600, with the firm taking around a quarter of that sum.

Bott & Co is one of a handful of UK firms to have moved into aviation claims, but more are expected to follow, particularly if profits tumble from personal injury work.

In March the European Commission opened a potential floodgate when it outlined revisions to Regulation 261/2004, which establishes passengers’ right to compensation.

Among the changes is a wider definition of delay, which now relates to the passenger’s final destination. Flight diversions and certain operational problems are also to be counted as delays.

The International Air Transport Association has warned that the changes would be ‘to the detriment of both travellers and the airline industry’.