Airline loses flight delays appeal

A number of Thomson aircraft Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Thomson Airlines claimed Mr Dawson's compensation claim was outside a two year time limit

An airline passenger has won his case at at the Court of Appeal over flight delays, despite waiting six years to bring a case against the airline.

The court rejected an appeal by Thomson Airways against an earlier county court decision to award James Dawson £1,488.73.

Thomson argued Mr Dawson's claim fell outside a two-year time limit.

Legal experts said the ruling could lead to more than 11 million passenger claims and cost airlines up to £4bn.

Mr Dawson's solicitors said the judgment meant that airline passengers now had six years to bring a flight delay claim in England and Wales.

In a statement, the firm said it had "hundreds of litigated cases which have been stayed pending the outcome of the Dawson case, and thousands more ready to issue proceedings".

The claim by Mr Dawson, from Peterborough, was brought over a delay to a flight from London's Gatwick airport to the Dominican Republic in December 2006.

His flight was held up by a crew shortage caused by sickness and the flight eventually arrived at its destination more than six hours late.

Time limit

Mr Dawson sought to recover 600 euros per person from the airline, which is payable as compensation for a flight of that length under European Union regulations.

The EU regulation does not stipulate a time limit for compensation to be claimed, leaving it up to national governments to set time limits. In the case of the UK, the courts have interpreted this to mean that the six-year statute of limitations rule applies.

But the airline argued that a separate regulation known as the Montreal Convention applied.

The convention, which is also law in the UK, sets a two-year time limit for compensation claims, but crucially does not limit the amount of compensation that can be awarded.

As a result, the legal argument centred on whether Mr Dawson's claim had to be brought within the two-year Montreal Convention set limit or the six-year limit statute of limitations.

Mr Dawson began proceedings in December 2012, just before the six-year period elapsed.

Thomson accepted it would have been liable to pay Mr Dawson compensation, but argued his claim was "out of time".

Extraordinary circumstances

It is the second court case in a week over flight delays, after the Court of Appeal found in favour of a passenger over a flight delay.

Ronald Huzar, whose flight arrived 27 hours late, won a compensation fight with an airline which said the delay was caused by "extraordinary circumstances".

Mr Huzar said he was entitled to compensation under EU regulations after suffering "no little inconvenience" when his flight from Malaga, Spain, to Manchester left a day late in October 2011.

But bosses claimed an exemption, claiming the problem which caused the delay - a technical fault on an airliner - was unforeseeable and amounted to an "extraordinary circumstance".

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