The European Court of Justice has today handed down an opinion that could lead to tens of thousands of UK airline passengers to finally receive compensation for flight delays that were caused by bird strikes.
Commenting on a Czech case where a delay was caused by a bird strike, Advocate General Bot said the court does not consider bird strikes an “extraordinary circumstance” and therefore airlines should be responsible for compensation for delays caused by them.
The comment could open the door for £84m in compensation to be paid to UK passengers, many of who currently have their claim on hold.
The opinion of the Advocate General, while not legally binding is usually consistent with the official judgment that is expected to follow in the coming months and should be considered a powerful comment on this legal argument.
The judgment would be legally binding throughout Europe, including the UK courts. The ruling cannot be appealed.
The Key Points
- The European Court of Justice comment states that bird strikes are not considered an “extraordinary circumstance” and airlines are not exempt from paying compensation for delays in these circumstances.
- Comment could open the door for £84m in compensation to be paid to UK passengers.
- Comment could be considered the biggest blow to the airlines hopes of arguing that bird strikes are an extraordinary circumstance.
Scholes Vs easyJet
Bott and Co is currently representing the Scholes family v easyJet in the lead case relating to bird strikes in the UK.
The family were delayed 36 hours on their return from Turkey. This case is currently being fast tracked at Luton County Court with a hearing expected on September 12th.
Previously, both Manchester and Liverpool courts, which hear the majority of UK flight compensation cases have both ruled in favour of passengers but have chosen to “stay” the cases until there is further ruling.
Today’s comment could be considered the biggest blow to the airlines hopes of arguing that bird strikes are an extraordinary circumstance and therefore would not be claimable.
We have always argued that bird strikes are claimable
Bott and Co’s Coby Benson says: “We have always argued that bird strikes are claimable cases, and have consistently seen courts in the UK take that position.
“We’re delighted that Advocate General Bot has confirmed that interpretation today.
“This regulation now has a decade long history of complicated legal argument after complicated argument raised by the airlines. Every time a big issue like this has gone before a senior court they have returned in favour of the passengers.
We have always argued that bird strikes are claimable cases, and have consistently seen courts in the UK take that position. We’re delighted that Advocate General Bot has confirmed that interpretation today.
“As much as airlines find this unpalatable, the message is clear; this Regulation is designed to provide a high level of protection for passengers and the courts routinely interpret it as such.
“We’ll be speaking to the courts and airlines in the coming days and urging them to take note of the opinion of the Advocate General.
“Let’s not waste even more of passengers time by waiting for the full judgment to come out – the position is clear, passengers are entitled to this compensation and they should receive it as soon as possible.”
As with all laws relating to EU Regulation 261/2004, the judgment is binding for UK passengers while the UK are members of the EU. However, even if the UK adopted the regulation post Brexit, the airlines may choose to question the validity of the judgment.
The most recent data provided by the CAA estimates that there are approximately 1500 confirmed reports of bird strikes each year.
Notes to Editor.
To date (28/07/2016), Bott and Co has recovered over £19.5million in flight delay compensation for more than 57,000 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 2014. 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 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.
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