Victory for passengers: Airlines face claims of up to £10billion after losing landmark court case over paying compensation for delays
- Jet2 and Thomson's lose appeals against passenger delay compensation
- Two families were left stranded for total of 33 hours and took them to court
- Airlines tried to overturn compensation rulings at Supreme Court but failed
- Rulings mean thousands more who have made claims likely to be paid
- Experts believe that millions of people may be able to sue tardy airlines
Airlines face claims of up to £10billion from delayed passengers after the Supreme Court today refused to accept they should not pay compensation to Britons left stranded and out of pocket.
Britain's highest court has this morning refused to hear appeals by Jet 2 and Thomson Airways against two passengers who won compensation after being left stranded by them.
Today's rulings could cost the airlines billions of pounds Appeal Court judges rejected excuses put forward for delays and confirmed the rights of passengers to compensation.
Now thousands of similar claims by passengers against airlines that had been placed on hold until rulings were made in these cases have been lifted, and have a greater chance of success.
Meanwhile lawyers saw a further 2.8million others could be able to bring cases.
Landmark Jet2 and Thomson's applications to appeal against two flight delay
compensation cases have been rejected, paving the way for thousands of new claims
Thousands of claims against airlines over flight delays had been put on hold until the Supreme Court rulings
In one case 41-year-old James Dawson from Peterborough can keep the £975 plus interest totalling £1,488 73p he was awarded from Thomson Airways after his flight with his wife from Gatwick to the Dominican Republic on Christmas Day 2006 was delayed six hours 26 minutes.
Thomson appealed the order for payment made by Judge Michael Yelton at Cambridge County Court in July last year, on the grounds that it was outside the two year limitation period for claims under the 1999 Montreal Convention.
But Lord Justice Moore-Bick sitting with Lord Justices Kitchin and Fulford unanimously agreed that claims can be made up to six years after the event under European law, and that Mr. Dawson was just inside that limit.
His solicitors flight delay specialists Bott & Co from Wilmslow, Cheshire, estimate the decision affects over 11 million passengers and with thousands waiting in the pipeline for the ruling say it is worth in excess of £4 billion to consumers. Thomson face a legal bill estimated at more than £100,000.
In an earlier decision 58-year-old Ronald Huzar from Stockport, won his battle with Jet2.com after his flight from Malaga to Manchester in 2011 was delayed for 27 hours.
The airline claimed a technical fault was 'unforeseeable' and they shouldn't have to pay out.
But the judges ruled the fault was not an 'extraordinary circumstance' and they must pay.
Rules state that passengers who reach their destination more than three hours late can claim up to Euro 600 (£494) plus expenses, per person, if the delay is within the airline's control.
However thousands of passengers have struggled to get the cash they are entitled to, with airlines often refusing to pay out even when the regulator rules against them. While most customers give up at this point, some have gone to court.
Over the past 10 years, it is estimated that air passengers who have failed to claim are owed £3.2bn. Other potential claims under this head are said to be worth £6.3 billion.
After his victory Mr.Huzar said: 'I am absolutely delighted with the decision. After everything I have been through to get to this point it's a fantastic day.
'I always hoped that we would get a positive outcome and it's nice to get to this milestone. The result in my favour should help passengers throughout the country who have experienced similar difficulties to me.'
Mr Huzar and his family were delayed by 27 hours at Malaga Airport due to an aircraft wiring problem
The rulings means that that passengers in England and Wales have six years to bring a flight compensation case to court, and have a better chance of winning.
'The Supreme Court has refused applications by Jet2.com and Thomson Airways to appeal the Court of Appeal of England and Wales' decisions in two cases about the airlines' liability to pay compensation after travel delays,' a statement from the Supreme Court read.
'The legal issues at stake were (in the Jet 2 appeal) whether an unforeseeable technical problem resulting in a delayed flight amounts to 'extraordinary circumstances' for the purposes of Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004; and (in the Thomson appeal) whether the applicable limitation period for bringing a claim for compensation under Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004 is 2 years, pursuant to the Montreal Convention, or 6 years, pursuant to the Limitation Act 1980.
'The Supreme Court has declined to hear either airline's appeal and the Court of Appeal judgment in each matter therefore stands.'
THE LANDMARK CASES AIRLINES TRIED TO HAVE THROWN OUT
Mr Huzar's lawyers Bott & Co says 2.36 million passengers per year in England and Wales are likely to benefit from the Huzar decision.
They say it will amount to an estimated £876 million in compensation claims while the ruling in Mr Dawson's case against Thomson could open up about £3.89 billion in historic flight claims.
Now holds have been lifted on thousands of similar cases, passengers with claims that were previously denied by an airline on grounds of a technical problem or for being over two years old have been encouraged to resubmit their claim.
'This is a landmark day not just for Mr Huzar and Mr Dawson but for passengers everywhere,' said David Bott, senior partner at Bott & Co.
'Two journeys which started with a delay have now finished, nearly eight years later in Mr Dawson's case.'
'Bott & Co has thousands of clients whose claims have been on hold pending today's decisions. 'We will now be writing to the airlines, asking them to acknowledge the judgments, recognise their obligations and deal with these claims as promptly as possible.
'If you've previously submitted a claim to the airline but have been turned down on the grounds of a technical defect or because your claim is more than two years old, we recommend you resubmit your claim.'
The regulations state that passengers delayed by more than three hours can claim up to 600 Euros (£494) plus expenses, per person, if the delay is within the airline's control.
Despite this, thousands of passengers have struggled to get the cash they are entitled to, with airlines often refusing to pay up even if the industry regulator rules against them. Most customers give up at this point, while others have gone to court.
In the past 10 years air passengers who have failed to make claims are owed an estimated £3.2bn while there could be further similar claims worth in excess of £6 billion.