Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Air passengers get green light for compensation

The European Court of Justice has ruled that airlines can no longer claim ‘technical reasons’ as an excuse for cancelling flights without giving passengers due compensation.

The judgment relates to a claim against Italian state airline Alitalia over a cancelled flight between Vienna and Brindisi due to an engine turbine defect. The court ruled that that issues arising during maintenance were part of a normal air carrier’s activity. The court made it clear that the ruling applies to all European airlines.

Following the landmark ruling British Airways have already settled a number of claims from passengers who took legal action after delayed or cancelled flights amounting to an average payment of £388 each. And lawyers representing passengers affected by Heathrow Terminal 5’s chaos following the debacle that was its opening last year.

Customers and their lawyers are welcoming the judgment because it all but removes the airlines’ ability to cite ‘extraordinary circumstances’ as an excuse for not giving compensation. The onus is now on the airlines to prove that, even if they had done everything possible, they would not have been able to prevent such ‘extraordinary circumstances’ from occurring.