Last week the ECJ ruled in favour of a passenger who had endured a 29-hour-delay on a KLM flight between Quito, Ecuador and Amsterdam.
The Dutch carrier had argued that the problem was down to a technical problem which it had classed as “extraordinary circumstances”, meaning that it should not have to pay out.
Under European law, carriers are required to pay out between €250 and €600, depending on the distance, unless they are able to illustrate that it was down to extraordinary circumstances.
However, in the ECJ’s assessment of the KLM case, it found that “a technical problem, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, cannot fall within the definition of ‘extraordinary circumstances’…”
Alan Bowen, legal advisor to the Association of Atol Companies, said airlines should now start lobbying the European Union again, with the aim of persuading regulators to increase the delay threshold for passenger complaints.
“There would be huge benefits for the airlines but they’re squabbling and spending millions of pounds in legal fees trying to defend the indefensible instead of doing something practical, which is to get themselves together and go and lobby the EU and get things moving again,”
Bowen said. Law firm Bott & Co, which is representing around 15,000 people against airlines, said the new decision “should settle the matter once and for all”. Hannah Clipston, partner at law firm Thomas Eggar, said:
“The judgment has made it clear that where a flight delay of more than three hours was caused by defective components not discovered during routine maintenance, airlines cannot claim this is an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ and refuse to pay compensation to passengers.”
Meanwhile, the CAA revealed last week that it would be taking enforcement action against Ryanair for the Irish carrier’s failure to comply “fully with European consumer law” over compensation for flight delays.
Andrew Haines, chief executive of the CAA, said: “The law is clear that compensation must be paid if a flight is delayed for more than three hours by a routine technical fault. It is also clear that air passengers have up to six years to issue a compensation claim at court.”
Ryanair’s director of customer service Fiona Kearns said: “We have requested an early meeting with the CAA to clarify any misunderstandings that may have arisen in dealing with some historic cases.”