Passenger wins airline test case

Posted: 11th June 2014

jet aircraftThe Court of Appeal has clarified the rights of air passengers whose flights are delayed in ruling that a businessman who endured 27 hours of ‘misery and annoyance’ after his flight home from Spain was delayed by a technical fault is entitled to compensation.

In a case with enormous financial implications for the airline industry, Ronald Huzar sued Jet2.Com for the inconvenience that he and his family suffered before being flown home to Manchester. He claimed damages in reliance on EU Regulation (EC) No.261/2004 but was faced by the airline’s arguments that the delay could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

The delay had resulted from a wiring defect in the plane’s fuel valve circuit which the airline argued could not have been prevented by prior maintenance or prior visual inspection. The problem was unforeseen and unforeseeable and, as such, amounted to an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ within the meaning of the Regulation.

Mr Huzar’s claim was at first unsuccessful but was subsequently upheld by a county court judge. In challenging that decision before the Court of Appeal, the airline argued that it was based upon a misinterpretation of the Regulation and failed to strike a fair balance between the interests of air carriers and their passengers.

The Court acknowledged that the issue was not without difficulty. However, in dismissing the airline’s appeal, it held that the technical hitch was ‘within the control of the carrier’ in the sense that it was part of its normal everyday activities. The fact that the fault was not foreseeable did not mean that it was unexpected as problems of this nature frequently arose in the airline industry.