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U.K. Court: Lightning Strikes Not Valid Reason to Deny Compensation

Thanks to a recent British court case, air travelers delayed due to lightning strikes could start to receive financial compensation.

In an appeal case against British carrier Monarch Airlines, a court ruled this week that lightning strikes are not a valid reason for airlines to avoid offering flight delay compensation.

The case was tried at the Reading County Court in the United Kingdom. Judge Melissa Clarke awarded passengers Michael Evans and Julie Lee each £450 (approximately $650) for a five-hour flight delay caused by lightning striking a plane.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers, Botts & Co Solicitors, said that while the ruling is not legally binding on other courts, it could ultimately benefit up to 54,000 delayed passengers across different airlines, to the tune of £17.6 million ($25.4 million).

Airplanes are designed to withstand lightning while in mid-air, and the large majority of planes struck arrive safely and without delay. However, upon landing the aircraft must undergo safety checks, which can cause delays.

In this particular case, a Monarch plane struck by lightning was undergoing a check at London Gatwick Airport (LGW). There was not additional Monarch aircraft standing by, so passengers had to wait for the procedures to be completed.

Monarch claimed that the delay was caused by “extraordinary circumstances,” which under European Flight Delay Regulation EC 261/2004 would mean that compensation was not required.

Nonetheless, Judge Clarke ruled in favor of Evans and Lee, stating that “damage caused by a lightning strike may well be an unexpected flight safety shortcoming, but that does not make it an exceptional circumstance.”

According to TravelMole, a Monarch spokesperson commented following the verdict: “We are aware of the judgment and are reviewing it.”

[Photo: Getty Images]

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