2Birds loses aviation case over delayed passenger compensation

Bird & Bird has lost an appeal for airline Jet2.com against a delayed passenger in a ruling which could pave the way for millions of airline compensation claims.

Bott & Co today won compensation for Ronald Huzar, who was delayed for 27 hours on his way from Malaga to Manchester. Today the Court of Appeal (CoA) ruled that the technical issue causing his delayed flight could not be classed as an extraordinary issue and was the fault of the airline, meaning that Jet2.com is liable to pay compensation. 

Current regulations allow passengers to claim compensation if a flight is delayed by more than three hours unless it is caused by an ‘extraordinary circumstance’.

Giving the leading judgment, Lord Justice Elias said: “In my view HH Justice Platts was right to say that the extraordinary circumstances defence did not apply, albeit that I respectfully disagree with his reasoning, I would dismiss the appeal.”

Huzar launched a claim for compensation last year at Stockport County Court after his plane broke down and a specialist engineer had to travel from the UK to Malaga to fix it.

His claim was thrown out by the district judge but he was granted leave to appeal. 

Bott & Co then triumphed in the Manchester Country Court in October last year when His Honour Judge Platts found technical problems were part of the everyday running of planes. 

At the CoA stage, Fountain Court Chambers’ Akhil Shah QC was drafted in for the hearing in front of Lord Justice Laws, Lord Justice Elias and Lady Justice Gloster. The judges quashed the airline’s appeal, refused leave to appeal and granted Huzar €400 (£323) in compensation which the airline had refused to pay.

The airline turned to Bird & Bird partner Robin Springthorpe, who instructed Quadrant Chambers’ Robert Lawson QC for the CoA. At County Court level, Quadrant’s Tom Bird appeared for Jet2.com and was retained as Lawson’s junior in the appeal court.

Bott & Co partner David Bott acted for Huzar. Bott had previously turned to St Johns Building’s Darren Crilley for the Stockport County Court hearing.

Jet2.com argued that the wiring issue causing the flight delay was an unforeseeable issue which it should not have to pay compensation for under EU regulations. However the court ruled today that in Huzar’s case the cause of the technical problems was wear and tear, a routine part of running an airline for which they should pay compensation.

Elias LJ said: “The delay caused by the resolution of an unexpected, unforeseen and unforeseeable technical problem cannot be said to be an extraordinary circumstance.

“Air carriers have to encounter and deal with such circumstances as part of running an airline just as the owner of a car has to encounter and deal with unexpected and unforeseen breakdowns of his car.”

Jet2.com was granted permission to appeal the ruling at the beginning of the year by Mr Justice Lewison.

The legal line up

For the appellant Jet2.com Ltd

Quadrant Chambers Robert Lawson QC and Tom Bird instructed by Bird & Bird partner Robin Springthorpe

For the respondent Ronald Huzar

Fountain Court Chambers Akhil Shah QC instructed by Bott & Co partner David Bott