If your flight is late…

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Back in 2009, CD-Traveller wrote about a court judgement which established that if your flight was delayed for more than 3 hours, you were entitled to compensation. Then the EU introduced legislation that appeared to say that compensation was allowable under almost any circumstances which led to airlines objecting to having to pay if the delay was due to matters outside their control. LJM and Ryanair for example, fought this in the courts and I wrote that it seemed strange that airlines should be responsible for delays caused by volcanic ash.
Last October the European Court of Justice upheld an EU law saying that the compensation was not unreasonable. The court didn’t accept the view of the airlines that compensation should be limited to cases that occurred after this ruling so passengers might be able to claim for delays going back to 2005. But, in one important sentence, the court has said that airlines don’t have to compensate passengers if the airline can show the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances which couldn’t have been avoided. So, for example, if you can’t fly because of another volcanic ash cloud then the airline isn’t liable.
Now in a new case, the court has upheld the right for compensation. To be fair, the company involved, Thomas Cook, had offered compensation for a 22 hour flight delay due to the aircraft having a technical fault. Refusing this, the case went to a small claims court and then to the European Court where the man received less than he had been offered by Thomas Cook. The ruling says that technical issues are not to be considered as things outside the control of the airline.
That seems perfectly reasonable given that airlines have to maintain their planes. Fix it, get another plane and/or compensate would seem to be the outcome.
Airlines in the past had avoided compensation claims because the flight hadn’t been cancelled. A flight delay, they seemed to think, meant that compensation wasn’t necessary. Now they have no reason to argue this anymore. A delay of more than three hours will incur the same levels of compensation as a cancellation.

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