Great victory for airpassengers in the UK Supreme Court re compensation for flight delay

The UK Supreme Court October 31 decided the case “ vs Ronald Huzar” which means that technical problems with aircraft no longer can constitute Extraordinary Circumstances when Airlines are defending themselves against airpassengers’ right to flight delay compensation



In the UK Court of Appeals case “ vs Ronald Huzar” regarding a passenger’s right to flight delay compensation according to EU Regulation 261/2004 the factual circumstances were described as follows:

“The claim arises out of the delay to flight number LS 0810 from Malaga to Manchester on which the claimant was booked travel on 26th October 2011. The flight was scheduled to depart from Malaga at 18.25 (local time) and to arrive in Manchester at 20.25 (local time). The aircraft, a Boeing 737-33A, experienced an unexpected technical problem during its inbound flight to Malaga when the left engine fuel advisory light became illuminated indicating a possible defect in the fuel shut-off valve.

When the plane landed the defendant arranged for a spare valve to be fitted but the problem remained. Despite further investigations it was not possible to identify the cause of the problem before the airport closed for the evening. The following day further investigations revealed a wiring defect in the fuel valve circuit such that the wiring needed replacement. As a result it was necessary to send a specialist engineer and spare wiring from the defendant’s hangar at Leeds Bradford airport.

Having reviewed the options the defendant decided to bring in another aircraft from Glasgow to take passengers from Malaga to Manchester. The flight eventually departed at 21.09 (local time) on 27th October 2011 and arrived in Manchester at 23.28 (local time), some 27 hours late. It is conceded that the claimant and his family were provided with appropriate transport, accommodation and refreshments free of charge during the delay. The claim before the District Judge was for compensation pursuant to Article 7(1)(b) of the Regulations.

For the purposes of the appeal the appellant accepted the implicit findings of the learned District Judge namely that this technical fault was unexpected and could not have been predicted by a regular system of inspection or maintenance and, further, that the wire which failed or was defective was within its expected lifespan. Thus the fault was neither discovered nor discoverable by a reasonable regime of maintenance or on reasonable inspection and therefore was unforeseen and unforeseeable.”

Despite the fact that the fault was neither discovered nor discoverable by a reasonable regime of maintenance or on reasonable inspection and therefore was unforeseen and unforeseeable Court of Appeals ruled that these circumstances did not constitute Extraordinary Circumstances and therefore awarded the passengers compensation for flight delay.

The UK Supreme Court has now decided to not take the case why the verdict from Court of Appeals stands. The Supreme Courts states in its ruling that “ vs Huzar” is in accordance with EU Case Law why there was no reason to take the question to the European Court of Justice.

The UK Supreme Court ruling means that it is no longer possible for an Airline to deny passengers compensation for flight delay arguing technical defects on their aircraft, except for exceptional cases with for example Product liability defects.

The Guardian

The Telegraph

Law Gazette


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