PASSENGERS who are delayed by more than three hours will get compensation from their airlines, the European Union’s highest court has ruled.
The ruling by the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg said passengers who reach their final destination three hours or more after the scheduled arrival time can claim fixed compensation from the airline, unless the delay is caused by “extraordinary circumstances” such as a strike or bad weather.
Mechanical problems with an aeroplane do not constitute extraordinary circumstances, the court ruled.
Passengers on flights starting or ending in the EU are entitled to between €250 and €600 for delayed or cancelled flights under the rules.
The ruling confirms a 2009 verdict by the court, which said that under EU law passengers whose flights are delayed have the same rights to compensation as passengers whose fights are cancelled.
The court was asked to clarify its 2009 guidance in light of two cases involving some of Europe’s biggest airlines.
In one of the cases, the International Air Transport Association, British Airways, easyJet and TUI Travel challenged the Civil Aviation Authority after it rejected their request to be exempted from paying for flight delays.
The second case involved the German airline Lufthansa, which was being sued by passengers after a flight delay of more than 24 hours.
In both cases judges sought advice from the EU court on exactly what compensation is due.
The court ruled yesterday: “Where passengers reach their final destination three hours or more after the scheduled arrival time, they may claim fixed compensation from the airline, unless the delay is caused by extraordinary circumstances.” The Civil Aviation Authority welcomed the ruling and said it “provides clarity for consumers”.
Iain Osborne, its director of regulatory policy, said: “Every year around 200 million passengers travel on two million flights to and from the UK, with the vast majority experiencing no problems.
“However, when something does go wrong, there are regulations in place to protect travellers, and the CAA is ready to ensure companies abide by them. Today’s judgment from the Court of Justice of the European Union offers much needed clarity for passengers, the airline industry and the CAA about when compensation must be paid following delays.”
In its ruling, the court said that extraordinary circumstances were those “which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken, namely circumstances beyond the actual control of the air carrier”.
James Hall Telegraph.co.uk