Extraordinary delays are taken to court

News  |   16 June 2014

The Court of Appeal ruling in ‘Huzar v Jet2.com’ puts airlines on the hook to pay compensation for delays.

The Court of Appeal ruling in ‘Huzar v Jet2.com’ puts airlines on the hook to pay compensation for delays.

As any traveller knows, the words ‘technical difficulty’ can be all it takes to destroy a well made plan. For commuters they can mean a small delay that causes big problems. For an airline passenger they can be the start of a saga that means losing days of a holiday or even having to abandon it.

An EU regulation provides that airlines must compensate passengers for certain types of delay, but Airlines have been using a loophole for delays due to unexpected technical issues to defend claims. A recent decision by the court of appeal sheds light on when Airlines may or may not refuse to pay out because of unexpected circumstances.


Mr Ronald Huzar suffered the infuriating, and all too common, problem of being trapped at the airport for an inordinate amount of time. He expected a 3 hour flight and instead endured 27 hours of delay due to a fault on the plane involving a part which was not expected to wear out as quickly as it had done. The compensation he aimed for was around £350, and was set out in the regulations. The airline defended the claim, outlaying legal fees to take the matter all the way to the court of appeal.


The defence Airlines formerly relied on in this kind of claim was that they don’t need to compensate if a delay is caused by “extraordinary circumstances” which were not avoidable by taking all reasonable measures. The Court of Appeal has now decided that technical faults are not “extraordinary circumstances” at all for an airline. Reportedly a large proportion of delays are caused by such faults, and it is part of the service provided to deal with such technical issues.


This decision means that all but the most unusual technical issues are no longer a reason to refuse compensation for delay. Many claims which have been refused under the “extraordinary circumstance” shield can be sent off again with reference to the new decision, and airlines may find they now need to pay out. In the short term therefore there is likely to be a glut of compensation payouts based on reconsideration of old refusals and also due to the high profile of this ruling making more people aware of a potential claim for compensation.

In the long term it has been speculated that airlines will need to raise fares. This will remain to be seen, as the EU regulations requiring compensation have been in place already for some years and potential compensation may already be built in to some airlines’ ticket prices.

For consumers the decision gives some added clarity to the law, and removes a barrier to the compensation remedies intended by the EU regulations. It is also hoped that it will encourage airlines to be more transparent in their defence of claims based on technical issues and more reasonable in determining whether or not compensation is due.

Contact Darren Forrester.