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UK's Court Refusal To Hear Cases Means Airlines Must Pay For Flight Delays

October 31, 2014 - The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has issued advice to passengers and called on airlines to comply with the law on compensation for disrupted flights, following the UK's Supreme Court decision to refuse both Jet2 and Thomson permission to appeal rulings made by the Court of Appeal in June.

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases, and for criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It hears cases of the greatest public or constitutional importance affecting the whole population.

Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of the CAA said “We acknowledge airlines’ concerns about the proportionality of the flight delay regulations and recognize that airfares may increase as a result. However, the court’s decisions in these cases bring legal clarity to this issue and we now expect airlines to abide by them when considering claims.”


This is also important information for anyone who has made a claim for flight delay compensation but is waiting for a decision pending the outcome from the Supreme Court. Following the decisions in these two cases, airlines should not continue to put claims on hold. Where airlines have already put claims on hold, the CAA expects airlines to revisit them and pay compensation for any eligible claims.

The CAA is not an ombudsman and does not have the power to force airlines to pay individual passengers’ claims. If passengers do experience a long delay or cancellation and wish to claim for compensation, they should contact their airline directly.

Jet2v Huzar: In June, the Court of Appeal ruled that ordinary technical problems that cause flight disruption, such as component failure and general wear and tear, should not be considered “extraordinary circumstances” and therefore airlines should pay compensation in these cases.



Jet2 applied to the Supreme Court to appeal this decision, but the court has refused permission to appeal. Airlines should therefore pay compensation for flights disrupted by ordinary technical faults. The Jet2 v Huzar case related to when technical faults that cause long delays to flights should be considered “extraordinary circumstances”. The court found that technical faults are inherent to the normal activity of an airline, unless caused by extraneous acts of third parties. This means that most technical faults will no longer be considered as extraordinary circumstances. Passengers wishing to take a claim to court can issue proceedings at the county court.

In Thomson v Dawson, the Court of Appeal in June confirmed passengers can refer compensation claims to the courts in England and Wales for flights going back six years, as opposed to the two year maximum cited by Thomson when dealing with compensation claims. Thomson applied to the Supreme Court to appeal this decision, but the court has refused permission to appeal. Under European regulations, passengers are entitled to compensation if their flight is cancelled or delayed by more than three hours on arrival, providing the disruption was not caused by “extraordinary circumstances”.

The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards; preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency; planning and regulating all UK airspace; and regulating airports, air traffic services and airlines and providing advice on aviation policy. (see U.S. Consumer Rule Limits Airline Tarmac Delays)

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