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Double whammy for UK airlines: air passengers can claim millions

Friday, October 31, 2014

London – The Supreme Court determined today that UK airlines can no longer cite ‘extraordinary circumstances’ when rejecting compensation requests for delays that were the result of a technical error. The judges also reviewed the limitation period for claims: this will remain at six years for all UK airlines and will therefore not be allowed to be brought back to two years, as the airlines had pleaded. A double victory then for all passengers battling UK airlines for delay compensation. 

Technical errors

In other European countries, judges have long agreed that airlines must pay compensation if passengers are delayed as a result of a technical error. The airlines have often disagreed with the legal implications of such judgements and therefore passengers are often forced to take legal action for each individual claim. Once brought before a judge, passengers will then generally receive their legal compensation., however, refused to pay compensation in one such case after the judge in the Manchester County Court had determined the airline needed to pay the passenger in question, Mr Huzar. After being dismissed by the Court of Appeal, filed an application to appeal once again with the Supreme Court. The judges were asked to review the case and determine whether an unforeseeable technical problem resulting in a delayed flight amounts to ‘extraordinary circumstances’. Today, the Supreme Court announced its decision to decline the airline’s appeal “because the application does not raise an arguable point of law”.

Limitation period

Under the European limitation period, passengers who experience a flight delay or cancellation must submit a claim for compensation within the timeframe of two years, or their right to claim expires. However, in the UK, the legal limitation period prevails above that of the European Union. Therefore claims against UK airlines can be brought up to six years after the flight date. Thomson Airways, among others, rejected this and argued that a limitation period of six years would conflict with the Montreal Convention, which follows the European deadline. Today the Supreme Court confirmed that the six-year limitation period is lawful in the UK and therefore all UK airlines must accept claims up to six years after the date of the flight.

Submitting claims retroactively

So if you experienced a flight delay or cancellation with a UK or Irish airline, you can now claim up to six years after the date of the flight, even if the delay or cancellation was caused by a technical error. However, claiming compensation from airlines such as Ryanair, Virgin and Thomson can prove a difficult task, even if the claim is valid, says Raymond Veldkamp of, a company that battles airlines on behalf of air passengers. In many cases, several steps must be taken before compensation is in fact paid out, as airlines aren’t fined for refusing to pay compensation for individual claims.

Written by: Team