What Happened On the 24th May 2013 British Airways flight BA 762 was scheduled to depart from Heathrow Airport at 07:55am and arrive at Gardermoen Airport, Oslo at 11:00am. This is a route that British Airways fly very regularly and usually without exception. Between 24th April 2013 – 23rd May 2013 we noted that this flight departed late by an average of 20 minutes, however the flight regularly made up time and ended up either arriving in Oslo early or in a few cases with an average delay of just 5 minutes. On the 24th May 2013 however the flight took a frightening and unpredictable turn when, during the take-off stages of the flight the Airbus A319’s fan cowl doors became detached from the aircraft’s 2 engines and fell on to the runway. An investigation carried out by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch has revealed that the neither sets of latches had been closed prior to take-off. The fan cowl doors are large protective covers that shield the inner parts of the aircraft’s engines. They are often opened and/or removed during routine maintenance and it is an essential step that once the maintenance works are completed that the 4 retaining latches and clipped back in to place. An investigation carried out by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch has revealed that the neither sets of latches had been closed prior to take-off. Ensuring that the latches are closed is an essential part of the Flight Crew Operating Manual (FCOM) Standard operating Procedure (SOP), to be followed during the exterior walk-around checks. What almost caused this flight to end in an unthinkable disaster was the fact that when the doors became detached they also caused severe damage to each of the aircraft’s 2 engines. The crew immediately decided to return to Heathrow as a precautionary measure. During the approach to land the right engine caught fire and the crew promptly declared a Mayday situation. To the crew’s undeniable credit the aircraft landed safely and the 75 passengers and 5 crew evacuated via the escape slides on the left hand side of the aircraft. Amazingly, there were no injuries reported. As at July 2012 (the most recent figures available) there were 32 reported fan cowl door detachment events. This was certainly not the first time that the detachment had led to significant damage to an aircraft. Passenger Rights Under EC Regulation 261/2004 a passenger is entitled to compensation of between €250 – 600 to compensate them for the inconvenience and lost time when their flight is delayed for more than 3 hours or the flight was cancelled. The only exception to this rule is that airlines do not have to pay compensation if they can prove that:- “the cancellation [or delay] is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.” It has been reported that British Airways are refusing to compensate passengers inconvenienced by the events on the 24th May 2013, as they believe the circumstances were extraordinary. The leading case on the matter, Friederike Wallentin-Hermann v Alitalia – Linee Aeree Italiane SpA (C-549/07) held that circumstances are only extraordinary if they:- 1) Are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned; and 2) Are beyond its actual control. It has been reported that British Airways are refusing to compensate passengers inconvenienced by the events on the 24th May 2013, as they believe the circumstances were extraordinary. To put it another way, the situation has to be out of the ordinary and beyond British Airways’ control. It could well be argued that near catastrophic poor maintenance such as this is out of the ordinary in the aviation industry, however crucially, it was very much within British Airways’ control and it was certainly something that could have been avoided if ‘reasonable measures had been taken’. We believe that British Airways is therefore unable to satisfy the legal test to establish that compensation is not payable. It follows, that each of the 75 passengers on board flight BA 762 are entitled to compensation of €250 to reflect the inconvenience that has been caused. Regulation 261/2004 does not however take into account a particular’s passenger’s circumstances, such as any physical or psychological damage that may have been caused. In these cases the passengers also have additional rights to compensation under the Montreal Convention. Who Has Been Affected Unfortunately it wasn’t just the 75 passengers on flight BA 762 that were affected by this incident. There were hundreds of flights that were cancelled and delayed, affecting thousands of passengers, due to the temporary closure of the runway. As these cancellations and delays ‘stem from events’ which were within British Airway’s control, we believe that they too will qualify for compensation of between €250 – 600. If you were a passenger on one of these flights and you wish to find out how much you are entitled to then please complete the form on our website where you will receive an instant response. We would suggest that any passenger wishing to make a claim should first of all contact British Airways directly. Claims can be submitted online here or alternatively by post, for more information please visit this site. We have also prepared a draft letter, which can be downloaded here, that passengers may wish to use (free of charge) in order to present their claims for cancelled flights. If British Airways refuse to pay out compensation then the next steps would be to refer the matter to the Civil Aviation Authority or alternatively issue Court Proceedings. If any passengers require assistance then we would consider acting for them on a no-win-no-fee basis. Any passengers wishing to make use of this service, can fill in the form here.