The Court of Appeal has opened up an estimated £4 billion of compensation to air passengers after ruling that technical problems caused by wear and tear in aircraft should not be defined as extraordinary circumstances in a case against Jet2.
Bott & Co, the firm representing Robert Huzar in Huzar v Jet2.com, said that the case had the potential to “rock the rights of the UK’s airline passengers”.
Robert Huzar firstr issued proceedings against Jet2.com after a 27 hour delay on his return from Malaga to Manchester in October 2011 caused by a wiring defect in an aircraft’s fuel valve circuit. Huzar represented himself at Stockport County Court on 10 June 2013 but lost in the first instance. Bott & Co successfully appealed on his behalf at Manchester County Court on 15 October 2013 which led to Jet2 appealing the decision.
The court examined whether a technical defect can be considered an extraordinary circumstance, and therefore a valid reason for an airline not to pay compensation under Article 5(3) of Regulation EC 261/2004. The European Courts of Justice and several national courts have already ruled that delays caused by technical defects are in the first instance inherent to the activity of the airline.
Lord Justice Laws, Lord Justice Elias and Lady Justice Gloster held that if the cause of a technical problem for an airline was one which was “inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned” then it necessarily followed that it was also within the control of the carrier and therefore not extraordinary.
“On average, 30% of all delays and cancellations are caused by a technical defect,” said Adeline Noorderhaven, a manager at EUclaim UK, which works in partnership with Bott & Co. “So the decision on Huzar v Jet2.com has a tremendous impact on air passengers in the UK and airlines can no longer hide behind technical defects stating that they are extraordinary circumstances.”
Immediately after the verdict was announced, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) stated that the ruling would not affect claims rejected before 11 June. However, David Bott, the senior partner at Bott & Co, said that the CAA was wrong in its assertion.
“If they were right then Mr Huzar would not have been paid out,” he said, “This is not how Common Law works; it applies to everything subject to the Limitation Act which in England and Wales is six years for this type of claim.”