Summer Holidays and Flight Delay claims

19 Nov 2018

An article by Louise Boyle, Head of Debt Recovery at Trethowans, on advice about getting compensation back from delayed or cancelled flights as part of the Dispute Resolution Briefing autumn edition.

It may already seem a distant memory but some of us will recently have been on a summer holiday. A topic which may be relevant to consider is the subject of being delayed at the airport.

EU Regulation 261/2004 provides for a right to compensation and assistance in cases of denied boarding, cancellation or long delay. Delay constitutes anything over 3 hours and the timing is based on the opening of one of the aircraft doors as opposed the actual departure time. The regulation covers flights departing from or arriving in EU Countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland or if you are flying with a European airline. Each passenger affected can claim including children.

The length of your flight determines how much you can claim:

In order for airlines to be able to validly defend a claim of this nature they have to raise the defence of whether the delay was caused by an “extraordinary circumstance” which could not have been avoided despite the airlines taking all reasonable measures to prevent the occurrence happening.

Whilst each case needs to be looked at on an individual basis, certain circumstances have been decided through case law as to what is and is not accepted by the Court’s as being a valid “extraordinary circumstance”.

By way of example airlines raising the argument of technical issues generally would not constitute an extraordinary circumstance however a collision between an aircraft and a bird is classified under this concept.

The Civil Aviation Authority confirms that typical grounds accepted by the Court’s of extraordinary circumstances are:

1. Terrorism or sabotage;
2. Political or civil unrest;
3. Security risks;
4. Strikes (unrelated to the airline such as, airport staff, ground handlers, or in air traffic control);
5. Weather conditions incompatible with the safe operation of the flight; and
6. Hidden manufacturing defects (a manufacturer recall that grounds a fleet of aircraft).

Historically airlines were loathed to pay out on claims for compensation and raised defences of extraordinary circumstances. Therefore whilst you may be faced initially with a rejection to a claim it could be the case that it is still worth pursuing the matter. Through the development of case law passengers are now in a better position but essentially each matter should be reviewed on a case by case basis and airlines are entitled to reject claims when certain circumstances apply.

Download the article – Summer Holidays and Flight Delay claims

Dispute Resolution Briefing – Autumn Edition 2018


Our professional Debt Recovery Team are among the best in the South. If you have a legal matter that requires the expertise of one of our team, contact us today on 0800 2800 421. We have law offices in SalisburySouthamptonBournemouthPoole and Winchester to meet your requirements.


Louise Boyle

Associate and Head of Debt Recovery