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Court of Appeal victory for consumers in flight delay compensation claims

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The Court of Appeal has today handed down its judgment in the case of Huzar v Jet2.com. This case was brought to clarify the definition of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ in the context of flights that are delayed specifically due to technical faults with an aircraft.

Currently, flight delay claims fall under Article 5(3) of Regulation No 261/2004, and previous Court cases have confirmed that passengers are entitled to compensation where their flight is delayed for more than 3 hours, unless the reason for the delay was outside of the airline’s control, such as bad weather conditions.  The Court in the Sturgeon case in 2009 confirmed that if the delay was due to technical problems which ought to have been picked up during routine maintenance, they could not be classed as extraordinary circumstances, and the airlines therefore could not use this to avoid paying compensation.

The amount of compensation that a passenger is entitled to depends on the length of the flight, and ranges from €250 to €600 (£202 to £485 approx).

The delay in the Huzar case was caused by a technical problem, specifically the left engine fuel light came on, indicating a potential defect in the fuel shut-off valve. It then later transpired that there was nothing wrong with the fuel valve, and instead there was a wiring defect which meant that the wiring needed replacing.

It was accepted by both sides that the technical fault was unforeseen and unforeseeable, and therefore could not have been predicted or identified by routine maintenance. Jet2.com argued that the fault was not therefore ‘inherent in the normal exercise of the airline’s activity’, and that as a result they did not have to pay compensation.

The Court of Appeal dismissed all of Jet2.com’s arguments and confirmed that when determining whether a delay or cancellation was caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’, the circumstances must be ‘out of the ordinary, and therefore must ‘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 Huzar’s case, the cause of the technical problem was as a result of wear and tear, and therefore the Court of Appeal confirmed that the lower Court had rightly taken a common sense approach, finding it to be entirely ordinary and therefore not extraordinary.

The judgment in this case could now open the floodgates for passengers to finally recover compensation if their flight has been cancelled or delayed due to technical problems.

By Heather Korwin-Szymanowska, Associate solicitor in the Consumer dispute resolution team.

At Stephensons, we have a specialist team who deal with these types of claims, and have a range of funding options available to you, from fixed fee initial assessments, and the potential to offer a contingency fee agreement, so that you do not have to pay anything to us in legal costs, unless you actually recover compensation. If you have experienced a flight delay in the last five years, of more than 3 hours, please contact us on 01616 966 229.

We have acted/are acting for passengers on the following flights:

Air Seychelles HM011 on 23rd May 2013 from Heathrow to Seychelles

Thomas Cook TCX226K on 6th April 2010 from Hurghada to Manchester

British Airways BA886 on 24th May 2013 from Heathrow to Bucharest

Virgin Atlantic CS44 on 13th August 2010 from Gatwick to Las Vegas

Thomson TOM264 on 1st April 2013 from Gatwick to Hurghada

Thomson TOM094 on 22nd October 2012 from Gatwick to Holguin

Thomson TOM4744 on 20th January 2013 from Gatwick to Tenerife South

Pakistan International Air PK-758 on 24th December 2013 from Heathrow to Lahore

Thomas Cook TCX2152 on 3rd August 2013 from Manchester to Paphos