How the term 'extraordinary circumstances' relates to claims for compensation
Extraordinary circumstances is a term used in the European law which describes your rights when a flight is delayed or cancelled. When the cause of the cancellation or delay was extraordinary circumstances it means the airline does not have to pay lump-sum compensation though it still has to offer you other assistance.
Despite the word extraordinary, it does not necessarily mean it is a rare event, it just has to be outside of the airline’s control.
The CAA has a complaints handling service for when passengers cannot resolve their complaint directly with the airline.
When we are considering a complaint about a delayed or cancelled flight and the airline has claimed extraordinary circumstances, we look at the evidence provided by the airline and may seek further evidence to be considered by our legal and technical experts. For technical problems this could include technical logs. Then we decide whether, in our view, compensation is payable, or whether the circumstances which led to the delay or cancellation were outside of the airline’s control.
Where information has been provided to us by airlines as part of our investigations into whether compensation is payable for a delayed or cancelled flight, we will generally not be able to provide copies of that information to you if it is obtained by us as part of our statutory functions.
Our decision is not legally binding, but it is one we have made carefully in the light of the evidence available to us. We have found that we consider the delay or cancellation to be outside of the airline’s control in the majority of cases reviewed. In these cases, in our view, compensation is not payable to the passengers concerned. If we decide that the airline could have prevented the cancellation or delay we will tell the airline why and ask it to pay the compensation we consider is due.
When we decide that compensation is not payable, we are unable to take the case any further on that aspect, but passengers remain free to take their case to court. We also have a code of practice for our service which includes an escalation process.