Passengers have won against Ryanair, after a judge today ruled in a test case that they are entitled to claim compensation for flight disruption, which happened more than two years ago.

The judgement on the Goel and Trivedi v Ryanair case, which was heard at Manchester County Court, means Ryanair can't limit the amount of time a passenger can take a claim to court to two years.

It had argued it could do this under it's terms and conditions, despite the law clearly stating passengers have six years to claim in England.

As the case was heard at a county court level, it won't set a legally binding precedent, meaning other courts won't have to follow its example. However, solicitors' firm Bott & Co, which specialises in flight claims and represented the passengers in court, believes that as it's a test case, other courts in England and Wales are likely to follow the decision.

Kevin Clarke, a flight delay lawyer at the firm says: "We're delighted that the court has dismissed yet another argument put forward by the airlines to restrict passenger rights."

However, it might not be the end of the road, as Ryanair says it will appeal the decision. Bott & Co says the court now has 21 days to decide whether or not to grant this appeal.

A spokesperson for the budget airline says: "Ryanair today rubbished the absurd claims about its potential liability under the Manchester Court judgement. Firstly, since less than 1% of Ryanair flights are delayed over three hours and since more than 90% of passengers make a valid claim within Ryanair's contractual two year period, there is a tiny potential group of passengers who may wish to submit a claim between two and six years after the date of their flight delay.

"Accordingly, Ryanair estimates that even if its appeal in this matter is ultimately unsuccessful, its potential liability will not be material and is likely to be less than €5m."

See our Flight Delays guide to check if you're due compensation for a flight delay or cancellation, and for help on how to reclaim yourself for free.

Haven't airlines already been told they can't limit claims to two years?

Airlines have already been told by the courts that they can't limit claims to two years:

  • June 2014: The Court of Appeal confirmed that the time limit for bringing a claim for compensation must be determined in accordance with the laws of each individual country. That's six years in England.

  • October 2014: Thomson – the airline at the centre of the challenge to the Court of Appeal – tried to overturn the ruling arguing it should only be two years under the Montreal Convention – a different set of rules to EC 261/2004, which is used for making flight delay and cancellation compensation claims – but it was refused permission to do so by the Supreme Court.

If you've been delayed at any time since 2005, you have a right to compensation under EU rules (as long as you fit the other qualifying criteria too – see our Flight Delays guide for the details).

However, in the UK it's easier in practice if it's been since 2008, as you can only take your case through the small claims system within six years from the delayed flight in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and within five years in Scotland.

Passengers claim flight delay victory as court rules against Ryanair
Passengers claim flight delay victory as court rules against Ryanair

So what does this mean for my claim?

If you want to claim compensation for a flight delay or cancellation that happened more than two years ago, but no further back than 2005, here's what you need to know:

  • I've yet to submit a claim. New complaints can still be submitted as normal to the airline. However, it may be Ryanair and other airlines put them on hold pending the outcome of its request to appeal today's judgment.

  • My claim's been rejected by the airline. If your claim's been rejected by an airline because it's about disruption that took place over two years ago, you should ask the airline to reassess it, although Ryanair and other airlines may put it on hold pending the outcome of its request to appeal today's judgment. You may also find it difficult to get your case reassessed if it's nearing the six year time bar.

  • My claim's been rejected by a court. If your claim's been rejected at county court level you have 21 days to appeal the decision – after this your time runs out.

What is today's case about?

Today's case relates to two separate passengers – Archana Goel and Diwakar Trivedi – whose flight from Reus in Spain to Stanstead in England was delayed by nearly 10 hours on 6 May 2008 following a technical fault.

Both parties asked Bott & Co to take on their claim (you can reclaim yourself for free – see our Flight Delays guide for the details), which was filed at court on 30 January 2014 – five years and 8 months after the flight delay.

The cases had been on hold pending other legal challenges, but were heard on 6 August 2015, with the judgement delivered today.