Couple Wins Lawsuit for Extensive Flight Delay; Precedent Set?

Photograph ©istockphoto.com by Yuri Arcurs.

A judge has awarded a couple compensation as the result of a lawsuit they initiated against the company whose flight was reportedly delayed for 22 hours — and FlyerTalk members discuss a court decision which could set a precedent in commercial aviation in the United Kingdom which could “open the floodgates” to other claims by passengers delayed by flights dating as far back as 2005.

Jeff Halsall and wife Joyce — whose flight home from Tenerife was delayed by 22 hours — were awarded £680 by a judge in court who determined that Thomas Cook was at fault for the delay.

Passengers are typically allowed to claim between £199 and £480 — depending on the flight — if they are delayed for more than three hours. The £680 won by the Halsalls included expenses for pursuing legal action.

Had the delay been caused by an issue not within the control of the airline — such as labor disputes or inclement weather — the airline would not be held responsible and therefore can supposedly deny monetary compensation to its passengers.

While some FlyerTalk members ponder how this court decision will affect British Airways and commercial aviation in the United Kingdom in the future — forcing the legal departments of airlines to compensate passengers in a more expeditious manner before they can file lawsuits, as one example — other FlyerTalk members believe this is much ado about nothing.

Should compensation be limited to what was paid for the airline ticket — for example, should a passenger be paid £199 in compensation even though he or she only paid £50 for the airline ticket?

Coincidentally — in a totally unrelated case which was decided today — Ryanair was ordered by the highest court in the European Union to compensate stranded passengers of the low-cost carrier for meals, transportation and lodging after experiencing significant flight delays which were caused by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland back in April of 2010. Flights were grounded and millions of passengers were stranded as a result; and volcanic activity in Indonesia and Guatemala and Ecuador had also disrupted flights because it is too dangerous to fly though a volcanic ash cloud.

However — according to the European Court of Justice — airlines have an obligation to provide care, even as a result of extraordinary circumstances, causing the court to rule against Ryanair. In typical Ryanair fashion, a fee of two Euros was imposed in 2011 on all reservations to cover compensation costs in the future, which begs the question:

Will this supposed new precedent in compensation ultimately increase airfares for passengers in the United Kingdom?

Also, does suing airlines for compensation send a message to pay up sooner when flights are delayed for greater than three hours, or are passengers simply being too litigious?

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Comments (Showing 1 of 1)

  • gordies at 11:45am February 03, 2013

    A decision in a County Court does not set a precedent in UK law.

    However, anyone else bringing a similar case ‘may’ refer to a previous decision but it carries no weight at all.

    The airline has the right to appeal this decision and it remains to be seen if they will do so.

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