A judgement in the European Court of Justice has opened the way for airline passengers to receive compensation when a flight is cancelled because of a technical fault.
The Court said airlines had to pay up unless the fault was due to exceptional circumstances such as terrorism, sabotage or a hidden manufacturing defect that suddenly came to light. Its ruling is binding on members of the European Union.
The test case centred on an Austrian family whose Alitalia flight from Vienna to Brindisi via Rome was cancelled five minutes before it was scheduled to take off. The airline refused to pay 250 Euros (£235 / $350) in compensation or 10 Euros for a phone call, blaming the cancellation on ‘extraordinary circumstances.’
But the judges decided that the airline’s definition of those circumstances – a complex engine defect in the turbine – did not excuse it of its obligation to compensate passengers.
Hendrik Noorderhaven, of Euclaim, which helps travellers fight for compensation, said: “It’s a huge victory for passengers. It will be even more difficult for the airlines to hide behind the excuses they use not to pay compensation.
“It will also cost airlines tens of millions, as the estimated value of unclaimed compensation for delayed flights in Europe is £545million a year.”
by Andy Moreton