The boss of Jet2.com has called for “fair and effective” reform of flight compensation to make the system better for passengers and carriers.
Founder and executive chairman Philip Meeson said compensation for delays and cancellations could potentially stretch to £75,000 per flight – five times the carrier’s typical fare.
Moreover, Meeson stressed this hit was often doubled due to knock-on delays and disruption to the aircraft’s return leg, resulting in more compensation claims.
Meeson said the “well-meaning regulations”, enshrined in EU Regulation 261 (EU261), often had “perverse consequences” for passengers and airlines alike.
“How can it be fair for one passenger on a delayed flight to be recompensed for the inconvenience, but for the person across the aisle to have their claim denied?” said Meeson.
“Surely it would make more sense to make decisions flight-by-flight, rather than passenger-by-passenger. And why is it reasonable that a payout for a delay can be four or five times the price of a budget airline ticket?”
Passengers can claim EU261 compensation of up €600 (£515), depending on the flight time, for delays of three hours or more, except in the event of “extraordinary circumstances”, which have been defined and determined by a handful of court cases.
“For a holiday airline, these amounts are high,” said Meeson. “Our typical fare is £80. There is no link, under the EU’s rules, between the price paid for a ticket and compensation for a delay, which seems very unfair. For a delayed flight of 189 people, the bill for us is around €75,000. If that aircraft’s return leg is disrupted too, that’s a bill of €150,000.”
Meeson said in the “vast majority” of claims, Jet2.com pays compensation immediately, but stressed it was not afraid to fight its corner to encourage the law to be applied consistently.
Historically, the CAA has adjudicated, but Meeson said it was increasingly urging airlines to sign up to third-party Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) schemes.
“They use various adjudicators, often without full legal qualifications, to assess very technical issues,” said Meeson. “There is an imbalance of fairness in that rulings are binding on the airline but not on passengers, who can go elsewhere to challenge an outcome.
“ADR schemes are unsuitable for resolving issues running to six-figure sums around a poorly drafted piece of European legislation. And it is concerning under its proposed aviation strategy, Aviation 2050, [government] ministers are considering making them compulsory.”
Meeson said adjudications should be made on a passenger-by-passenger basis, with the first ruling acting as a “reference” applicable to all passengers on the same flight.
He also urged ministers to give airlines right of appeal equal to that of passengers while clamping down on “ambulance-chasing" claims handling firms.
“The European Commission’s regulation, drawn up in good faith, has given rise to a cottage industry for chasing compensation,” Meeson added.
“It’s time to revert to common sense with a simple, fair and effective mechanism for resolving complaints. If we are to use ADR providers, their decisions must be consistent, hold sway flight-by-flight and, if dubious, be subject to appeal.”