Passengers hit by flight delays caused by bad weather may now be able to claim compensation of up to £510 per person following a landmark court case.The decision is expected to open the door to compensation claims dating back six years that are estimated to be worth tens of millions of pounds.
Usually airlines reject compensation claims for delays caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’ outside their control. Although this allowed them to deny payments to passengers on flights hit by bad weather, it also meant no compensation for passengers on subsequent flights that suffer delays as a knock-on effect.
However, a court in Cheshire has ruled that those on these later flights are entitled to compensation. The case centred on a claim brought by customers of easyJet, however the outcome will apply to all other UK airlines and can be backdated by six years.
Under the court’s ruling, an airline will still be able to deny compensation to passengers on flights delayed by bad weather at the designated take-off time. But if the weather clears up, those affected later because planes are not in the right place at the right time will be able to make a claim.
The compensation regime, which applies across the EU, means travellers can make a claim if a flight has been delayed for at least three hours and the airline has no legitimate excuse. The figure varies depending on the length of the journey, rising from £210 per person on short-haul flights to a maximum of £510.
EasyJet denied compensation to passenger Frederique Jager, 31, who booked a flight from Gatwick to Nice in the summer of 2012 which landed three hours and 12 minutes later than scheduled.
Miss Jager, who is from Holland but was living in London, made a claim herself, but easyJet turned her away citing high winds and bad weather.However, she knew there had been no bad weather in either Gatwick or Nice and so pursued the case. It later transpired that her plane had been held up earlier in the day by high winds on another route.
The judge sitting at the county court in Macclesfield ruled that this did not give easyJet the right to deny compensation and awarded Miss Jager £210. Her solicitors said the decision makes clear that airlines should have enough planes and staff to cope in these circumstances.
Paul Hinchliffe, the managing partner of Bott and Co solicitors, said: ‘It’s a victory for passenger rights. Despite the fact that easyJet made what should be a simple process very complicated for their customers, justice ultimately prevailed.
‘The law is clear and airlines continue to exhibit a flagrant disregard for the regulations. The very fact that passengers have to resort to using a solicitor to recover their compensation shows the lack of respect the airlines have towards their customers.
‘We receive hundreds of cases every week where passengers have not got anywhere with the airlines.’
Easyjet said it will take steps to minimise the impact of bad weather on passengers. A spokesman said: ‘Delays of this type are extremely rare and easyJet does everything possible to provide information and care for all customers in line with our obligations. We are reviewing the cases to understand whether further measures can be put in place to minimise the impact of adverse weather on our flying schedule.’