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Airlines still hiding behind 'extraordinary circumstances'

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The pitfalls of travel insurance

When it comes to going on holiday, or even catching a flight for business purposes, being delayed probably isn’t the first thing you think about. However delays occur for millions of travellers each year.

Under EU Regulation 261/2004 passengers are entitled to up to €600 in compensation if their flight lands at their destination three hours late.

However, there are circumstances that passengers are not entitled to compensation, these involve the delay being beyond the airlines control in what are known as “extraordinary circumstances”.  The Civil Aviation Authority who regulate the UK air industry define extraordinary circumstances as hijacking, extreme weather or a natural disaster.

Previous to 2014 airlines had tried to argue that technical faults were extraordinary circumstances. That all changed in 2014 after two landmark rulings Huzar v Jet2 and Van der Lans.  In Huzar the UK High Court declared that technical faults such as component failure or general wear and tear are not extraordinary, however hidden manufacturing defects are extraordinary. Ruling that if the cause of a technical problem was “inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier” the airline should pay compensation.

In 2015 the case of Van der Lans v KLM in a ruling that cannot be appealed, the European Court of Justice confirmed that technical faults are not extraordinary, and that airlines should pay passengers compensation in these instances.

Despite there being clear guidelines as to what constitutes extraordinary circumstance it is believed that airlines today are still claiming that delays are due to extreme weather when in reality they are often due to mechanical faults or staff shortages (sourced from mirror.com 04/02/17).

Watchdogs such as Which? are now calling for the government to push forward legislation in order to deal with airlines who reject compensation claims from passengers with vague or unclear reasons.  

Many passengers who apply for compensation, have their claims rejected, with airlines claiming the delay or cancellation is due to extraordinary circumstances and not expanding any further.

If you have written to an airline to claim compensation for your flight delay and have had your case rejected and haven’t been given any clear reasons as to the delay, our specialist consumer law and dispute resolution team could help you get the compensation you deserve. Call us on 01616 966 229.


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