Airlines ordered to pay out if flights are delayed: Victory for passengers who can claim for past six years
- Jet2 and Thomson lose appeals against passenger delay compensation
- Two families were left stranded for total of 33 hours and took them to court
- Airlines tried to overturn compensation rulings at Supreme Court but failed
- Rulings mean thousands more who have made claims likely to be paid
- Experts believe that millions of people may be able to sue tardy airline
Millions of holidaymakers who endure long flight delays will now receive compensation following landmark court rulings yesterday.Even those who made their claims as long as six years ago could be entitled to money.The Supreme Court rulings were hailed as a major victory for holidaymakers who have long been fobbed off with excuses by airlines.Two million passengers a year whose flights are delayed by technical faults could now be entitled to hundreds of pounds each after judges found such problems are the sole responsibility of the airline. The industry is now expected to have to pay out £3.89billion for historic claims.Lawyer David Bott, who represented the passengers, said: ‘This is a landmark day. Airlines will be made to face up to their legal responsibility and pay out fair compensation to those who have suffered. ‘We’d expect hundreds of thousands of people to now come forward and make a claim.’ Yesterday’s judgments follow a six-year battle between airlines and passengers. Judges rejected separate appeals from airlines Jet2.com and Thomson, which had been taken to court by angry holidaymakers. Under European law, passengers are entitled to up to £470 in compensation if a flight arrives at their destination more than three hours late. The exception is if the delay is caused by a so-called ‘extraordinary circumstance’ such as bad weather, industrial action or a bird hitting a plane. Airlines have been accused of repeatedly exploiting this rule to wriggle out of paying legitimate claims. They have argued that delays caused by technical faults also count as extraordinary circumstances beyond their control. This frees them from any obligation to pay. Holidaymakers who had claims rejected on these grounds took the airlines to the small claims courts and then to the Court of Appeal. Ronald Huzar, 58, from Stockport, was refused compensation by Jet2.com following a 27-hour delay when travelling with his wife and granddaughter from Malaga to Manchester in 2011. The delay was caused by a wiring defect. Stockport County Court and then the Court of Appeal both ruled in his favour. In July, Jet2.com appealed against this ruling – this time to the Supreme Court. While it waited for a verdict the airline refused to pay other passengers delayed in similar circumstances. Other airlines also put thousands of compensation claims on hold. Yesterday the Supreme Court threw out Jet2.com’s request to appeal. Mr Huzar received £940 compensation in total.He said: ‘I’m ecstatic that we’ve finally got there after three years. ‘I think it’s brilliant not only for me but for everyone out there claiming flight compensation.‘Jet2.com has fought tooth and nail to take my case this far but I think they deserve to lose after everything they have put me through.‘I’m delighted not just for myself but for everyone else they have treated in this way.’A separate ruling by the Supreme Court means that passengers will now be able to claim for delays dating back six years.James Dawson, 41, took Thomson to Cambridge County Court after his compensation claim for a six-and-a-half-hour delay was rejected by the airline because it was more than two years old. Mr Dawson – who was stuck at Gatwick Airport before flying to the Dominican Republic in 2006 – won cases in the county court and the Court of Appeal.Yesterday the Supreme Court rejected Thomson’s request to appeal.Mr Dawson, from Peterborough, has now received £975 in compensation plus interest totalling £1,488.73. Experts predict these victories will open the floodgates for claims from passengers who suffer delays in the future.Andrew Haines, chief executive of watchdog the Civil Aviation Authority, said: ‘Where airlines have put claims on hold, the CAA expects airlines to revisit them and pay compensation for any eligible claims.’ A spokesman for Thomson said: ‘We are surprised and disappointed to note the decision of the Supreme Court as we believe our position is sound in law. We will now review this position based on the court’s decision.’ Jet2.com did not want to provide a comment.