SOME 18 million passengers whose flights were delayed by aircraft “technical defects” could claim from airlines under a landmark court judgment today, law firm Bott & Co said.
It predicted the decision by the Court of Appeal in London would “open the floodgates” for claims, which could top £6 billion.
The firm said while the case was not binding in Scotland, “it is highly persuasive and we are aware of a number of cases in Scotland that have been stayed pending the outcome of this case”.
The lawyers said 17.6 million passengers who had flown over the last six years could potentially claim for a flight delay or compensation.
It said payouts could top £6.3 billion based on an average claim of £360 per passenger.
A judge rejected an appeal by airline Jet2 against a £350 claim by passenger Ronald Huzar for a 27 hour delay due to an aircraft wiring defect.
Law firm senior partner David Bott said: “The judgment states that technical problems, such as with the wiring on Mr Huzar’s flight, may be unforeseeable, but are ultimately caused by an event inherent in the running of an aircraft, and cannot therefore be considered to be an extraordinary circumstance.
“The interpretation of the regulation has been clarified today, and airlines should no longer ignore their obligations when dealing with people who have suffered a delayed flight due to technical problems.
“I sincerely hope that the days of airlines refusing their passengers rights to financial redress with defences such as frayed carpets and broken toilets as extraordinary circumstances are behind us.
We would urge anyone who has tried to claim for a delayed flight and been refused by the airline on the grounds of a technical problem, to write to the airline again based on today’s decision.”
The case involved a flight from Manchester to Malaga in 2011.
The appeal judges concluded that the “extraordinary circumstances defence” did not apply to the airline in Mr Huzar’s case.
Lord Justice Elias listed terrorism, strikes, air traffic control problems and freak weather as events beyond the control of airline.
Jet2 said the ruling would cause confusion for passengers and it would appeal.
A spokeswoman said: “Today’s judgement is disappointing and could, if unchallenged, have a significant impact on the entire airline industry.
“The judge noted the issue ‘is not without some difficulty’, and as such we are taking the dispute to the Supreme Court.
“The European national enforcement bodies have agreed that unexpected technical defects, such as the one in this case, are outside of the control of airlines, and would therefore be considered extraordinary for the purposes of compensation.
“Today’s ruling will only cause further confusion for passengers and airlines, which is why we will continue to seek clarity and consistency by appealing directly to a higher court.”