District Judge Jenkinson said “a line should now be drawn… justice delayed is justice denied”, according to lawyers.
They said the Liverpool Crown Court judge had said air passengers felt they were “on an airline-driven merry-go-round that shows no sign of stopping”.
The case involved a claim against Jet2, but similar claims are pending against Thomas Cook – which last night accepted the ruling – and Ryanair, Flybe and Wizz.
Lawyers in the case said it would affect Scottish passengers who had suffered delays on flights from English airports.
They also said the decision was likely to be “highly persuasive” if similar claims were brought before a Scottish court.
Yesterday’s judgment came after Jet2 tried to get the case put on hold pending a Dutch case which has been referred to the European Court of Justice.
Bott & Co, which has 8,000 claimants, said the other airlines had made similar applications. Passengers on a European Union airline can claim up to €600 (£435) if they arrive more than three hours late on a flight to or from an airport in the EU.
In the Liverpool case, Kim Allen is claiming €400 compensation after a Manchester to Malaga flight was delayed for nearly seven hours in 2012 because of a technical problem with the aircraft. As a result, she missed her daughter’s band performance. Yesterday Ms Allen said: “I know that today isn’t just important for me but for thousands of other people who are in the same position as me.
“Hopefully now it’s time for the airlines to pay us what the law says they should.”
Kevin Clarke, a flight delay lawyer at Bott & Co, said: “We’ve seen continual legal challenges to the finer details of flight delay regulation by the airlines since it was first introduced and it’s pleasing the court is now taking a firm line against them. Sadly, the history of their conduct over the last decade would tell us to expect yet another legal challenge,”
A spokeswoman for the law firm added: “As a test case, it is likely that all other flight compensation claims in England and Wales across all airlines will now follow the decision made.
“We would say that today’s decision is highly persuasive in Scotland.
“We also see a lot of clients from Scotland who, because of the different school holidays in England, find it cheaper for them to fly from airports such as Newcastle.
“When flying from an English airport, they can put a claim through the English legal system despite living in Scotland.”
A Thomas Cook spokesman said: “We accept this decision and continue to review our current cases in light of this change.”
A spokesman for Jet2 said: “As we have only just received the judgment, the company is currently considering its position.”
Ryanair said: “We comply fully with all [delay regulation] EU261 legislation and deal with each claim on a case by case basis.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS