Flight delays – Court of Appeal decision is good news for passengers

Jun 12, 2014

Yesterday in its judgment in the case of Huzar v, the Court of Appeal rejected the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ defence used countless times by airlines to avoid paying compensation.

Under EU law, if a flight is delayed by five hours, passengers may elect to abandon their journey and receive a refund.  In addition, if your flight arrives at your destination more than three hours after its scheduled arrival, a passenger is entitled to compensation as though the flight had been cancelled.

However, this does not apply to occasions when the flight is delayed due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’.  Historically, airlines have used this as a get out clause, and routinely refused to pay compensation arguing that delays caused by mechanical issues were ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

The Court of Appeal has now provided clarification and Lord Justice Elias’ judgment stated that for an event to be ‘out of the ordinary’ it must ‘stem from events which, by their nature or origin, are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned’, and if a technical problem is ‘inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned’ then it is within the control of the carrier and not “extraordinary”.

Any passenger who within the statutory limitation period of 6 years suffered flight delays caused by circumstances such as mechanical or technical problems, that are not “extraordinary”, even if they were previously rebuffed by the airline, may seek compensation.  It is expected that there will now be a flood of claims from disgruntled passengers.

The airlines are bound to be very disappointed in the decision and a further appeal to the Supreme Court is likely.

Daniel Winter

About the author

Daniel Winter

Daniel joined Nockolds in 2009 and is a Partner in our Commercial and Property Litigation Team. Daniel has been practising as a qualified Solicitor for ...

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