A judge has ruled that passengers should have six years to claim compensation for a delayed flight in another legal blow for the airline industry.

Ryanair had successfully defended two claims last year when deputy district judge Masheder dismissed them without holding hearings.

The claimants had suffered an eight-hour delay on a flight in 2008 and waited five years and eight months to make the claim. Ryanair argued that by accepting the terms and conditions when they bought the tickets the claimants had agreed to two-years cutoff for claims.

But His Honour Judge Platts, sitting at Manchester County Court, ruled in favour of the passengers in the test case Goel and Trivedi v Ryanair.

Platts said the airline’s argument amounted to a restriction or limit on its obligation to pay and thus went against article 15 of the EU flight delay regulations. Under a previous Supreme Court judgment, passengers were allowed six years to make their claim.

Northwestern firm Bott & Co, which brought the claim, has represented other claimants in recent years who have been seeking compensation for delays. The firm said the ruling stands to affect 2.66m customers of Ryanair alone, with £610m due to be paid in compensation.

Kevin Clarke, who acted for the claimants, said: ‘The Supreme Court decision last year said passengers have six years to bring a claim. That is a definitive, binding, clear judgment from the highest court in England and Wales.

‘This should have concluded matters but unfortunately Ryanair have been able to tweak the argument; we found ourselves running a complicated court case arguing the fine points of contract law.’

Earlier this year, Bott & Co won 400 euros for a passenger after the airline had refused to let airline Jet2.com put a claim on hold pending the outcome of a case in the Netherlands.

In June last year, the Court of Appeal opened the way for potentially millions of claims against airlines for late services after finding that technical problems could not be defined as ‘extraordinary circumstances’. The Supreme Court subsequently refused applications to appeal.

Airlines have argued that by widening the scope to make claims for late services the cost of flights overall will have to rise.