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Departure Board

Passengers yesterday and today have turned up at airports North and South of the Border to find their flights either cancelled or delayed. Heathrow, Gatwick, Southampton, Stansted and Edinburgh airports have been affected by fog and ice. The Airline industry is synonymous with delays which can be incredibly frustrating to passengers.

Thankfully the European Union recognised this issue in 2004 and implemented a regulation to harmonise airline’s obligations to passengers in respect of compensation and assistance.

The Regulation requires Airlines to pay compensation to passengers who have their flights delayed by more than 3 hours. Passengers are entitled to up to 600 Euros each depending on the length of the delay and distance travelling.

Additionally, airlines must provide:

  1. reasonable meals and refreshments in relation to the waiting time;
  2. hotel accommodation in cases
    • where a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary, or
    • where a stay additional to that intended by the passenger becomes necessary;
  3. transport between the airport and place of accommodation
  4. free of charge two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails.

Airlines must pay attention to the needs of persons with reduced mobility and any persons accompanying them, as well as to the needs of unaccompanied children.

Airlines have a duty to provide the above care to all passengers who are delayed, regardless of the length of delay or reason for the delay.

There are exclusions where an Airline does not require to compensate passengers for the delay, however they must still provide the care. The most likely exclusion is that faced by passengers this week, the weather. Where there are extraordinary circumstances the airline does not require to pay compensation for a delay. 

However, courts have been stringent on what constitutes an “extraordinary circumstance.” Wear and tear or any technical fault which ought to have been picked up in routine maintenance is not an extra ordinary circumstance. Additionally, even where it is extra ordinary such as crew sickness or a defective component, the Airline must take “all reasonable measures” to avoid the delay. A court held in a case where one aircraft had a technical problem with its flaps, the first alternative was hit by lightning, and the second grounded due to local restrictions about flying at night that not all reasonable measures were taken to avoid the 18 hour delay.

Unfortunately for passengers this weak fog is in extra ordinary event and therefore no compensation will be due. However, you are entitled to the care listed above and all reasonable measures ought to be taken to reduce delays and inform you timeously.

Blog by Alan Calderwood

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