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Court of Appeal Adds Heat to Summer Airline Delays

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Holidaymakers flying abroad for their summer break this year have received a double bonus for their peace of mind courtesy of the Court of Appeal.

Two recent consumer cases brought against airlines for delayed flights have bolstered the rights of individuals that face the misery of delays to and from their destinations.

The first case, Huzar v, limited the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ in which airlines could avoid compensating passengers for delays. The second case, Dawson v Thomson Airways, extended the period for bringing compensation claims from the accepted time of 2 years to the contractual limitation period of individual countries, 6 years in the UK.

This is of course good news for consumers but may mean costly compensation bills for airlines.

Huzar v

In this case Mr Huzar suffered a 27 hour delay on a flight from Manchester to Malaga when a wiring problem on an engine fuel valve circuit was discovered on the aircraft. Mr Huzar sought approximately £350 in compensation from the airline which refused on the basis that the delay was caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

Under EU Regulations airlines must compensate passengers for delays unless the delay is caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken’. Jet2 argued that this type of technical problem was unexpected, unforeseen and unforeseeable and was therefore an extraordinary circumstance.

In the Court of Appeal Lord Justice Elias said that for an event to be defined as out of the ordinary it must not “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 this case he held that such a technical fault was and that it was also within the control of the airline so was not extraordinary.

Dawson v Thomson Airways

In Mr Dawson’s case he claimed around £490 for a 6 hour delay from Gatwick to Dominican Republic just before the 6 year limitation period under English law was due to expire. Thomson Airways sought to rely upon a shorter limitation period of 2 years contained in the Montreal Convention 1999 relating to the liability of carriers by air. The airline admitted that it would have owed Mr Dawson compensation if he had brought the claim in time.

The Court of Appeal held that, in line with European Court rulings, the limitation period should be determined according to the laws of the country in which the claim was brought. Mr Dawson was therefore entitled to compensation.


These cases are undoubtedly a boost for consumer rights when it comes to seeking compensation for delayed flight. To some extent compensation costs are already factored into air fares though so a flood of compensation claims could end up pushing ticket prices higher in the long run.

For specialist advice regarding making or defending compensation claims, contact Peter Gourri today by email or telephone 0207 611 4848.

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