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Over the next few months thousands of us will be taking that airport selfie with our passport in one hand and pint in the other before we jet off somewhere exciting, exotic, or relaxing.  Unfortunately thousands of us will also be left abandoned at airports due to delayed or cancelled flights. Airports are exciting for an hour or two at a push as you await your departure. Any longer and they become a cramped, overpriced, over crowded, hell on earth.

Flight delay imageAirlines want to fill every seat and keep planes in the sky to keep profits cruising at an eye watering altitude. That means they leave no margin for any errors, which are of course inevitable. When these errors occur, it is the passengers who face spending the night in the departure lounge as they miss that wedding they have waited all year to attend.

Airlines can not just shrug their shoulders and leave passengers stranded. Where flights are delayed airlines must provide reasonable refreshments and meals relative to the length of the delay. In some cases they must provide overnight accommodation and transport to that accommodation.

In terms of EU Regulation 261/2004 passengers are entitled to up to 600 Euros each where their flight has been cancelled with less than 14 day’s notice, or delayed for over 3 hours. The level of compensation due depends on the length if the delay and distance of the flight.

Despite the regulations most airlines still shrug their shoulders and try to tell passengers they are not due compensation because the delay was due to “extra ordinary circumstances.” This is a legitimate defence in terms of the regulation,however, many airlines require some further training on what constitutes an extra ordinary circumstance. At Thompsons we only represent individuals. We help David fight Goliath. We are the last firm airlines will come to for advice but if they did here is what we would tell them:

  1. A “technical problem” is only an extra ordinary circumstance if it does not arise out of the everyday activity of an air carrier. Wear and tear of components is not extra ordinary. If it could have been picked up in routine maintenance you do not have a defence.  Pay out!
  2. Even if it could not be picked up in routine maintenance it would only be an extra ordinary circumstance if it affects more than one plane i.e. a manufacturer recall. Pay out!
  3. Scottish courts have held that: the failure of the landing gear, failure of a navigation system, and “technical issue” are not extra ordinary circumstances. Stop fobbing your customers off and pay out!
  4. Even if it is an extra ordinary circumstance you require to show you took all reasonable measures to avoid the delay/cancellation. You are not required to make an “intolerable sacrifice” but the bar is set high. In one case the first plane couldn’t take off because of a “technical issue” with the flaps. The replacement plane was struck by lightning, and the second replacement couldn’t take off because of a curfew at the airport. The Sheriff ruled that whilst this was an extra ordinary circumstance the airline had failed to take “all reasonable measures” and therefore still required to pay compensation. Do better, or pay out!

There will be circumstances where the airline has a proper defence, for example adverse weather conditions making it unsafe to fly, but we at Thompsons are tired of hearing about consumers being fobbed off and mislead by airlines. As a firm we have always stood up for the individual against the large corporations who seek to take advantage of them.

We can therefore stand by no longer and watch airlines flout their EU obligations. We have set up a dedicated team to assist consumers in their fight against the airlines. Should you wish us to educate the airlines on your behalf please call us on 0800 0891331 or visit Flight Delay Compensation.

By by Alan Calderwood, Solicitor

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