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Court ruling ‘opens floodgate’ to flight compensation claims

June 16 2014

Airline companies will no longer be able to use technical faults as a blanket excuse for avoiding paying out compensation to passengers for delayed flights after a Court of Appeal judgement.

A ruling by Lord Justice Elias at the Court of Appeal in Manchester which ordered Jet2 to compensate passenger Ronald Huzar for his flight being delayed 27 hours due to a wiring defect in the fuel valve circuit.

Now the floodgates could open for thousands of claims from airline customers who have been denied compensation for delays caused by mechanical breakdowns.

Jet2 confirmed after this week’s ruling that it will take the matter to the Supreme Court to seek clarity and consistency.

EU flight compensation rules state that airlines don’t have to compensate passengers if a delay is caused by “exceptional circumstances” and airlines have argued this includes technical faults.

In the landmark ruling, Lord Justice Elias said that technical faults could only be considered as “out of the ordinary” if they “stem from events which, by their nature or origin, are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned”.

“In the context of technical problems one must crucially ask what caused the technical problem,” he added.

“If the cause of the technical problem is one which is ‘inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned’ then it necessarily follows that it is also within the control of the carrier and therefore not extraordinary.”

Jet2 described the judgement as disappointing and a spokesman said that if it remained unchallenged, it could have a significant impact on the entire airline industry.

“The Judge noted that the issue “is not without some difficulty,” and as such we are taking the dispute to the Supreme Court,” said the spokesman.

“The European National Enforcement Bodies has agreed that unexpected technical defects, such as the one in this case, are outside of the control of airlines, and would therefore be considered extraordinary for the purposes of compensation.

“We regret any inconvenience to passengers. We are always committed to getting them to their destination on time.

“Our focus is to deliver a friendly service and low fares to our customers and we sincerely hope that this will not be jeopardised by today’s ruling.”