Victory for delayed passengers as European Court of Justice rules that ‘a technical problem’ is NOT an extraordinary circumstance.
- Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) loses at the European Court of Justice in the case of Van der Lans v KLM – a ruling that stands to affect millions of delayed passengers throughout Europe (over 10million in the UK)
- European flight delay Regulation EC 261/2004 entitles air passengers delayed by three hours or more to up to €600, as long as the delay was not caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’
- The Supreme Court ruled that technical issues are not an extraordinary circumstance in October 2014
- But KLM has been trying to argue that spontaneous technical issues (as opposed to technical issues discovered during routine maintenance of the aircraft) are an extraordinary circumstance
- If KLM had won, the vast majority of ‘technical issues’ would no longer be claimable anywhere in Europe, despite the Supreme Court ruling
- Flight Delay Lawyers Bott and Co say: “The fact that the same issue has had to go to the ECJ despite the Supreme Court ruling shows the lengths the airline industry will go to to avoiding paying out on valid claims.”
Click here to read the van der lans v KLM judgment in full.
The European Court of Justice today ruled in favour of passengers in the flight delay case Van der Lans v KLM. Today’s decision (following a hearing at the ECJ in Luxembourg on May 7th 2015) stands to benefit tens of millions of passengers throughout Europe.
The ECJ ruled that ‘a technical problem’ is not one of the extraordinary circumstances that airlines can use as a valid defence against paying flight delay compensation.
In October 2014 the Supreme Court ruled that ‘technical issues’ are not extraordinary circumstances under flight delay Regulation EC 261/2004, in the landmark case of Huzar v Jet2.com. The case – won by Bott and Co Solicitors – unlocked £750million in flight delay compensation for passengers in England and Wales.
But Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) has been arguing that technical issues that arise ‘spontaneously’ (as opposed to being discovered during routine maintenance) should be a valid excuse against paying out.
Because the ECJ is a higher authority than the Supreme Court, if KLM had won, the vast majority of technical issues might no longer have been claimable throughout Europe.
European Regulation EC 261/2004 entitles passengers to up to €600 if they are delayed by three hours or more as long as they were departing the EU or arriving in the EU on-board an EU airline. The only defence an airline has against paying compensation is when the delay was caused by an ‘extraordinary circumstance’.
The Regulation does not give a definition of extraordinary circumstances, which has led to a series of lengthy court battles over the last decade. Van der Lans v KLM is now one of the highest rulings on the issue of technical problems and is binding on all European courts.
Bott and Co Flight Delay Lawyer Coby Benson, who acted on behalf of Ronald Huzar in Huzar v Jet2.com said:
“The vast majority of technical defects are spontaneous and unpredictable; that is the nature of air travel. If there are any signs whatsoever that a part on a plane is on the verge of breaking, it is automatically replaced.
“On that basis, if KLM had won, the vast majority of technical problems might have been classed as extraordinary circumstances.
“Bott and Co brought clarity to the law when we won the case of Huzar v Jet2. Technical issues are not extraordinary; they are claimable.
“The fact that the same issue has had to go to the ECJ despite the Supreme Court Ruling shows the lengths the airline industry will go to to avoid paying out on valid claims. Fortunately the Courts have once again ruled in favour of consumers – we’re delighted with this outcome.’
In February 2015, in the case of Allen v Jet2.com, a Judge at Liverpool County Court ruled that Jet2, Thomas Cook, Ryanair, Flybe and Wizz Air could not put flight delay claims on hold to await the outcome of Van der Lans v KLM. [See Notes to Editor]
Ryanair was granted permission to appeal the decision and has been putting claims on hold pending today’s outcome.
In his Allen v Jet2.com judgment, District Judge Jenkinson said of the airlines’ attempts to delay paying compensation claims by raising new legal arguments made passengers feel that they were ‘on a merry-go-round that shows no signs of stopping’. He added, ‘…a line should now be drawn. Justice delayed is justice denied.’
Approximately 15,000 Bott and Co clients alone stand to be benefit from the Van der Lans ruling, totalling over £4.5million in compensation. Find out more about the case and its significance here
** According to a report published by the European Commission in May 2014, if airlines increased ticket prices to cover their compensation costs (including providing food, free accommodation etc. to passengers where necessary), this would only be equal to an increase of between €1 and €3 per one-way ticket (approximately 73p to £2.19)**
Notes To Editor
To date (17/09/2015), Bott and Co has recovered over €13.4million in flight delay compensation for more than 31,000 passengers, since the department launched in 2013.
Bott and Co took the landmark case of Dawson v Thomson Airways to the Supreme Court and won in The ruling meant that passengers in England and Wales have six years to take a flight delay claim to court. The decision unlocked £3.89billion in compensation. Find out more here.
Bott and Co took the landmark case of Huzar v Jet2 to the Supreme Court and won in 2014. The ruling meant that airlines can no longer claim that ‘technical issues’ are extraordinary circumstances. The decision unlocked £750million in compensation. Find out more here.
Bott and Co acted on behalf of Kim Allen in the case of Allen v Jet2.com
Bott and Co are a law firm and NOT a claims management company. In that respect we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and can issue court proceedings, where claims management companies cannot.