Delayed airline passengers benefit from EU rulingEuropean Court ruling good news for millions of passengers

17 September 2015


Today has seen a victory for delayed passengers as the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that airlines must pay out for delays caused by technical problems.

The ECJ ruled that ‘a technical problem’ is not one of the extraordinary circumstances that airlines can use as a valid defence against paying flight delay compensation.

If Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) had won its case, airline passengers across Europe would no longer have been entitled to claim compensation for delays caused by technical problems.

Earlier this year Which? revealed that around 900,000 passengers could be entitled to claim after analysing data for 1.7m flights over the past year.

But Which? research found that only four in 10 people who were delayed claimed compensation, meaning consumers could be missing out on millions of pounds.

We’ve created an easy-to-use tool you can use to start your free claim for flight delay compensation.

Hold your airline to account

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd welcomed today's ECJ ruling: 'This is yet again another failed attempt by an airline to thwart consumers who seek compensation when flights are delayed. 

'This case stand to benefit tens of millions of passengers throughout Europe and airlines must now stop standing in the way.'

He added 'We are urging people to hold their airline to account and claim the compensation they are rightly owed if they have a lengthy delay and their carrier is at fault.'

The Denied Boarding Regulation entitles air passengers delayed by three hours or more to up to €600, as long as the delay was not caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances'.

The regulation doesn't give a definition of extraordinary circumstances, which has led to a series of lengthy court battles over the past decade.

Van der Lans v KLM - legal wrangling

Van der Lans v KLM is now one of the highest rulings on the issue of technical problems and is binding on all European courts.

The ruling means airlines will now have to pay compensation to hundreds of thousands of airline passengers delayed by technical faults.

The Supreme Court ruled that technical issues are not classed as extraordinary circumstances in October 2014.

But KLM had been trying to argue that spontaneous technical issues (as opposed to technical issues discovered during routine maintenance) are an extraordinary circumstance.

The only defence an airline has against paying compensation is when the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances such as poor weather, natural disaster or industrial action. 

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