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Flight delay compensation

Flight delay compensation

With the holiday season approaching, travellers should be aware of their legal rights if flights are delayed or cancelled.

According to statistics from the European Commission, 1.5% of planes flying to and from British airports are delayed by three hours or more each year, affecting over three million passengers.

The EU-wide Regulation (EU261/2004) that governs flight delays was introduced in 2005, but, since then, a lack of clarity has prevailed about the exact circumstances when a passenger can claim compensation. However, two landmark cases in 2014 have at last shed some light on the matter.

The cases against Jet2 and Thomson Airways were both heard at the Supreme Court. The Jet 2 case clarified that a passenger has the right to claim financial compensation when the passenger is:

  • delayed for three hours or more
  • departing the EU or arriving in the EU on-board an EU airline
  • delayed for a reason not considered an extraordinary circumstance

The case against Thomson Airways clarified that a passenger now has six years from the date of the flight in which to claim in England and Wales. The airline had argued that it should only be two years.

Moreover, the law now sets out fixed amounts of compensation according to the length of the delay and the distance travelled.

Flight distance Length of delay Compensation
Up to 1,500 km 3 hours or more €250
1,500 - 3,500 km 3 hours or more €400
Over 3,500 km between 2 EU member states & 3 hours or more €400
Over 3,500 km 3 - 4 hours €300
Over 3,500 km Over 4 hours €600

This clarification is welcomed, but the issue of whether technical problems constitute an extraordinary circumstance is yet to be completely resolved. Just two weeks after the Supreme Court’s ruling that technical problems are not an extraordinary circumstance, Jet2 made a formal application to put other cases involving technical problems on hold until the outcome was known in a Dutch case against KLM. This application was denied in February 2015, but the airline is applying for permission to appeal the decision, delaying this and other cases still further.

The following guidance is useful in making any flight delay claim. Firstly, write to the airline providing details of the flight date, flight number and the length of the delay. The airline may respond stating that it is not liable to pay compensation because the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances. If this happens, ask in writing for the airline to give you the exact cause of the delay, even if you were told the reason for the delay at the airport. If the matter is not resolved, it may prove necessary to take the case to court.

For more information on this or any other civil litigation matter, please contact Shaun Burke on 01325 466461 or email shaun.burke@close-thornton.co.uk

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