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Passengers must be compensated for flight delays

Flight delayed statusA group of airlines has lost an appeal against a court ruling regarding compensation for passengers who are delayed by more than three hours. This group of carriers included the likes of easyJet, British Airways, TUI Travel and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), who challenged the 2009 Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ruling. However, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has confirmed the decision, though there will still be exceptional situations where compensation won’t have to be paid – like extreme weather and strikes.

The ECJ ruled in 2009 that compensation should be paid by carriers for delays at the same rates as cancelled flights – for the exception of delays caused by extraordinary situations. It declared at the time that there’s no reason for passengers whose flights have been delayed to be treated any differently when they arrive in their final destination three or more hours later than scheduled. The ruling also applies when passengers are re-routed by the carrier on another flights and don’t arrive in their destination until three or more hours after the schedule.

There are several cases involving compensation that have been postponed since 2009, and now the airlines may have to pay out. In a case involving Lufthansa, the airline was sued in a German court for compensation after a flight was delayed for over 24 hours. Advice was subsequently sought from the ECJ. In another case, easyJet, British Airways, TUI Travel and the IATA challenged the CAA when it rejected their request to be exempt from paying compensation for delayed services. The ECJ was again sought for advice.

Now customers on flights beginning or ending in the European Union’s 27 member states are entitled to between €250 and €600 if their flight is delayed or cancelled, according to EU regulations. These rules also apply to delays and cancellations outside the member states that involve an airline based in the EU.

The CAA has welcomed the ECJ’s ruling, saying that the situation is more clear for travellers now. Regulatory policy director Iain Osborne says that about 200 million passengers occupy some two million flights in and out of the UK every year, and most of these don’t experience any problems. However, there are regulations in place that protect passengers if something does go wrong, and they are ready to ensure airlines comply with them. The ECJ’s judgement provides much needed clarity for travellers, the CAA and the aviation industry about when customers should be paid for compensation due to delays.

However, a spokesman for British Airways said that they are aware of the judgment and will continue complying with the ruling. A spokesman for easyJet noted that they are disappointed with the result of the appeal. They are pleased, however, that they have final clarification and certainty on the matter. The easyJet spokesman added that they will do all they can to ensure customers don’t suffer delays, as passengers are their top priority.

TUI Travel said they are aware of the ruling and are committed to treating passengers fairly. They will continue working with European authorities to ensure the underlying regulation is revised so that there’s a right balance for airlines and passengers.

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