EU court orders airlines to compensate passengers for flights cancelled or delayed

By MoneyTimes

Sep 24, 2015 09:44 PM EDT

With the European court judgment's awareness, UK aviation regulators started enforcing the budget airline Ryanair, to compensate thousands of delayed passengers.  

The statement came after hours after a final ruling from the European court of justice opened the floodgates for compensation claims against airlines that could reach into hundreds of millions of pounds, as reported by The Guardian.

Each passenger can claim as much as €600 (£437) after the court ordered airlines to pay out if flights become delayed or cancelled due to "technical reasons". 

Thousands of claims from the passengers of Ryanair, Flybe, Thomas Cook, Jet2, and Wizzair were still on hold pending the outcome of the ruling, involving Dutch airline KLM.

Once the judgment becomes official and delivered, the UK's Civil Aviation Authority informed it had already made revision about Ryanair's compliance with European consumer law, and had concluded that it was "not satisfied" with how the airline handles compensation claims for flight interruption caused by the routine technical results. 

The CAA said so because Ryanair does not comply with the law, the agency is implementing enforcement action to guarantee the protection of UK passengers and warned that action court will follow if the airline's policy didn't change.

The court ruled: "The airline must ensure the maintenance and proper functioning of all aircrafts used for commercial activities. No component of an aircraft is indestructible; these situations are inherent in the normal operations of an airline. Therefore, when a flight is cancelled due to unforeseen technical errors, the airline remains obliged to pay compensation to its passengers."

Under the European Union compensation rules, if the flight of the passenger is cancelled or arrives more than three hours late can claim €250 - € 600 depending on the flight's distance.  The compensation is applicable to flights departing from any EU airport or arriving in the EU with an EU carrier or one from Iceland, Norway or Switzerland.  

Passengers seeking compensation may still face a battle for compensation. Airlines frequently cite "adverse weather conditions", which allows them to legally sidestep claims. However, determined travellers have later proved there were no weather problems.

A flight from Quito in Ecuador to Amsterdam is the latest in the concern of the recent European ruling.  A passenger's flight was delayed for 29 hours and her claim for compensation was dumped after KLM debated it could not be held responsible for technical problems that surfaced just before takeoff, as reported by MICE BTN.

Ryanair said: "Ryanair notes today's decision in the KLM case and will continue to comply with the EU261 legislation. Since less than half of one per cent of Ryanair flights are delayed by over three hours (the minimum time delay for compensation), this ruling will have less effect on Ryanair than any other airline."

The airline is uncertain why enforcement action was being threatened by the CAA when they are complying fully with EU261.

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