Airlines may find it harder to wriggle out of paying compensation for technical faults, following a ruling made on a test case at Liverpool County Court today.
Passenger Kim Allen yesterday argued that her compensation claim for a delayed flight caused by a technical fault should not have been put on hold by airline Jet2 pending the outcome of a similar case at the European Court of Justice.
Three other cases on the same issue were also heard at the same time – another one against Jet2, one against Ryanair and one against Wizz Air.
But the court has this morning ruled in favour of all four, meaning the claims must now be dealt with by the airlines.
See our Flight Delays guide to see if you're eligible to claim compensation for a flight delay or cancellation and step-by-step help on how to do so.
As the judgment has been made at county court level, it doesn't set a legally binding precedent, meaning other courts don't have to follow it.
The airlines may also try to appeal the decision – Ryanair has confirmed it will, although when we asked Jet2 and Wizz Air this they both told us they are currently considering their positions.
However, solicitors' firm Bott & Co, which represented Allen, says that as this was a test case on this particular issue, the decision sets a strong example and it's likely other courts will follow the decision, as well as other airlines.
In his ruling the judge stated: "Justice delayed is justice denied... I find that passengers are entitled to have their cases proceed now, rather than be delayed once again".
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I've got a claim. What should I do now?
- I've not yet submitted a flight claim. You should submit a claim as normal using our step-by-step help. Airlines technically don't have to follow today's ruling, but quote it as evidence to back up your claim.
- My flight claim is on hold. You should ask the airline or court which stayed the case to reopen it based on today's ruling. Today's decision isn't legally binding so neither airlines or courts have to comply with it, but the judgment should be persuasive.
- My claim has already been rejected. Today's judgment surrounds the legality of airlines putting claims on hold pending a separate ECJ court ruling, it doesn't affect claims that have already been rejected.
What is the issue with technical faults and claiming?
The issue of claiming for a delay or cancellation caused by a technical fault has been rolling on for some time now.
In June 2014 a case at the Court of Appeal (called Huzar vs Jet2) set a legally binding precedent on English and Welsh courts clarifying that airlines must pay compensation for qualifying flights where the delay has been caused by a technical problem that hasn't been caused by "extraordinary circumstances".
This means passengers can claim for normal technical problems such as component failure or general wear and tear.
Despite this judgement and the UK's Supreme Court ruling in October 2014 that it wouldn't hear the airlines' appeals, a number of airlines have continued to put claims on hold.
Solicitors' firm Bott & Co, which represented Allen, says Flybe, Jet2, Ryanair, Thomas Cook and WizzAir have been putting complaints on hold both when passengers claim directly to them and by asking for a stay at court level if the customer escalates the complaint.
The airlines are reportedly claiming they need to wait for the European Court of Justice to respond to a question on a similar Dutch case (called van der Lans vs KLM), which is asking for clarification on which scenarios airlines must pay out compensation for when the delay or cancellation has been caused by a technical fault.
What's Kim Allen's case about?
Allen's case relates to a Jet2 flight from Manchester to Malaga in March 2012, which was delayed by nearly seven hours due to a technical problem that occurred just before takeoff.
She twice complained to Jet2 herself asking for compensation, but was met with two different excuses for it being unable to pay.
Believing she had a case, she took the claim to Bott & Co, where it was chosen as a test case and was heard in court for the first time yesterday.