The hearing started at 11am on Thursday 22nd May and lasted for just 3.5 hours. The airline, Jet2.com, was represented by Robert Lawson QC and the passenger, Mr Huzar, was represented by Akhil Shah QC.
Mr Huzar was seeking compensation of €400 on account of the fact that his flight with Jet2.com was delayed by 27 hours. Jet2.com argues that they are not obliged to pay compensation since the delay was caused by an extraordinary circumstance, namely an unforeseen technical problem affecting a part of the wiring within the aircraft.
The fundamental question in the appeal is “Is an unforeseen technical problem affecting a particular aircraft on a particular day an extraordinary circumstance?”
This of course begs the question, “What is an extraordinary circumstance?”
The leading case on the subject, Friederike Wallentin-Hermann v Alitalia – Linee Aeree Italiane SpA (Wallentin-Hermann) defines an extraordinary circumstance as an event which is:-
“Not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned and is beyond the actual control of that carrier on account of its nature or origin.”
Mr Huzar argues that this is clearly a two part test, first of all the airline must show that the events were ‘not inherent in the normal exercise…’, i.e. out of the ordinary and then they must also prove that the event was beyond their actual control.
Jet2.com argue that the 2 tests are actually one in the same and that one can effectively just ask ‘was the event beyond the control of the air carrier.’ They elaborate on this argument by stating that events are beyond the control of the carrier when they are unforeseeable. Finally, they argue that in Mr Huzar’s case the fault with the wiring was indeed unforeseeable. Therefore, Jet2.com say that they can show that the delay was indeed caused by an extraordinary circumstance.
Conversely, Mr Huzar argues that a technical problem such as this one, caused by wear and tear, is simply an event which is inherent in the normal running of an airline – that is so whether the event was unexpected or not. Furthermore, the wear and tear affecting the aircraft is a factor which is entirely within the control of the air carrier itself. In the absence of any external cause, this technical problem must not be extraordinary.
The Court must therefore decide on the correct definition of extraordinary circumstances and then apply that test to the facts in this case.
Understandably, given the potentially huge ramifications of the decision the Judges decided to reserve their judgment. Unfortunately they did not give any indication as to the likely timescales for handing down their decision.