EU regulation 261/2004 provides passengers with a right to compensation of up to £470 if their flight is delayed for more than three hours or cancelled. This applies to any flight leaving any airport in the EU, Norway, Switzerland or Iceland as well as flights into the EU from a country outside of the EU on an EU-based airline or from Norway, Switzerland or Iceland. Historically airlines have tried to prevent passengers from claiming for flights after two years and where the delay has been caused by an unforeseeable technical fault, however the landmark case Jet2.com v Huzar should have changed the stance. The Supreme Court upheld a ruling of High Court against Jet2.com who tried to argue that there were unforeseeable technical problems amounting to "extraordinary circumstances".
A judge in Liverpool County Court refused applications from Jet2.com, Ryanair, Flybe and Wizz Air who tried to keep passengers’ claims on hold until Van der Lans v KLM, a case about technical delays in Holland had been decided. The judge held that the passengers’ claims should be decided in line with existing rules.
What are extraordinary circumstances?
The only defence available to airlines is where the delay or cancellation has been caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.
Scenarios classed as extraordinary circumstances include acts of terrorism, political unrest, hidden manufacturing defects and extreme weather conditions. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) provides a full list of extraordinary circumstances on their website. These are subject to change as new cases are decided at Court. Recently, in the case of Ash v Thomas Cook Airlines, a judge in Manchester County Court held that bird strikes are not extraordinary circumstances.
How do you make a claim for compensation?
Some airlines will have their own claims procedure in which case you should contact them directly in the first instance to give them the chance to pay compensation without any court involvement. However pursuing these claims takes time and effort and it is therefore important to ensure that you have a valid claim. EU Claim offers a cost effective service and can carry out all the necessary steps for you.
What else should airlines provide?
As well as providing compensation for passengers, airlines must, at the time of the delay or cancellation, offer refreshments and accommodation even if the delay was caused by an extraordinary circumstance. Even for short haul flights under 1,500km, where the delay is over two hours, airlines should provide a reasonable amount of food and drink, a means for you to communicate, accommodation if you are delayed overnight and transport to and from the accommodation. Many airlines will provide vouchers for you to purchase food and drink and arrange accommodation for you. However if this does not happen you should retain receipts for claiming back afterwards.
Air travel is on the rise. The CAA reported in May this year that on-time performance for all scheduled flights operating from the UK’s 10 main airports dipped by 1% to 79% in the last 12 months. The average delay for chartered passenger flights also deteriorated increasing from 17 minutes in 2013 to 18 minutes in 2014.
It is important to know your rights, perhaps you are a business with employees who regularly fly for business purposes. If you would like information about how to claim for flight delays please contact Melanie Traynor in our Debt Recovery Team.