The UK travel industry will be bracing itself for potentially the largest financial threat of all time, following a High Court ruling today in the case of Ron Huzar Vs Jet2.com Limited.
The airline Jet2, has lost its appeal against a County Court Ruling, which held it was liable to pay compensation to a passenger, Mr Ron Huzar, from Offerton, Stockport. Mr Huzar and fellow passengers were subjected to a 27-hour delay on a flight from Manchester to Malaga on 26 October 2011.
The airline unsuccessfully argued in court on Wednesday 11 June 2014 that the fault caused by a wiring defect should be classed as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ and therefore passengers would not be able to claim compensation under EU regulation (EC 261/2004), which covers passengers rights.
The High Court has ruled that the defect was in fact ‘inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier and therefore not extraordinary’. The wiring defect was the result of ‘general wear and tear’ and as such airlines should be expected to deal with this sort of problem regularly therefore ruling it out from being extraordinary.
Jet2 have indicated that they will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court and a second ruling in another case Dawson v Thompson Airways is also being eagerly anticipated by the industry.
This second case centres on a key point, namely what is the time limit applicable to a claim for compensation under article 7 of Regulation 261 for a delayed flight.
The impact financially of this ruling for all airlines, not just Jet2, could effectively mean an open door to compensation claims.
Many within the industry are already predicting this will financially ruin some weaker airlines, increase flight costs and there are also concerns being raised about safety. In the future for example, will there be greater pressure on flight crews and ground staff to ensure flights take off without delay, regardless of technical issues?
Lewis Solomon, Chartered Legal Executive and travel litigation specialist at law firm Adams & Remers LLP says “This is certainly one to watch and should also serve as a prompt to those in the industry to review how they handle this type of delay and the financial exposure to claims, which it now may bring.”
“I would urge businesses in the travel industry to be speaking with their advisory teams as soon as possible to review their position in light of this ruling.”