Court of Appeal ruling clarifies air passenger rights on claiming compensation for disrupted flights

Date: 19 June 2014

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) welcomes the clarification today’s (Thursday 19 June) Court of Appeal ruling brings to the issue of how far back passengers can go when claiming compensation for disrupted flights.

The judgment in the Thomson v Dawson case means that passengers have a maximum of six years to take their compensation case to court. . Thomson had argued that a two year limitation on claims should apply, based on the limits included in the Montreal Convention (international aviation law).

However, the Court of Appeal ruled that EC261/2004 – the European regulation covering passenger rights during disruption – is separate from the Montreal Convention. This means that passengers can refer compensation claims to the courts for flights going back six years, which is the maximum length of time that courts in England and Wales will allow before cases are barred from being brought.

The judgment reaffirms the CAA’s view that passengers can pursue compensation claims through the courts for flights from up to six years ago. However, the CAA generally advises passengers that do wish to claim compensation for a disrupted flight to lodge their claim as soon after the flight as possible. This means both the passenger and airline will be able to access the information about the flight they need more easily.

Thomson has indicated it will seek permission to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, so there may be further developments on this issue. Passengers should be aware that this might lead to a delay in airlines processing their claims.

Today’s judgment follows a Court of Appeal ruling in the Jet2 v Huzar case on Wednesday 11 June that meant ordinary technical faults should not be considered as extraordinary circumstances.

For more information on your rights if your flight is delayed of cancelled, visit caa.co.uk/passengers.

For more information please contact the CAA press office on 020 7453 6030 or press.office@caa.co.uk. Follow the CAA on Twitter @UK_CAA.

-ENDS-

Notes to editors:
• Under European regulations, passengers are entitled to compensation if their flight is cancelled or delayed by more than three hours on arrival – providing the disruption was not caused by “extraordinary circumstances”.
• Passengers wishing to take a claim to court can use the small claims court.
• The CAA is not an ombudsman and does not have the power to force airlines to pay individual passengers’ claims. However, the CAA can take legal action where there is evidence of systematic non-compliance with the regulation by an airline.
• The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include: making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards; preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency; planning and regulating all UK airspace; and regulating airports, air traffic services and airlines and providing advice on aviation policy.