Court paves way for 1.2m claims over missed connecting f lights
MORE than a million passengers who endured lengthy delays after missing their connecting flight could be in line for compensation after a crushing legal blow against the airline industry.
For years non-EU carriers including Emirates, American Airlines, Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines have wriggled out of paying claims for delayed flights by exploiting a loophole in the law.
They say the EU legislation that entitles passengers up to £540 (600 euros) compensation doesn’t apply to them because their long-haul, connecting journeys are two flights, not one. So if passengers miss their second flight from a non-EU airport – such as Dubai or Singapore – and are late to their final destination as a result, they are not entitled to a payout.
But yesterday the airlines suffered a bruising defeat as the Court of Appeal ruled against Emirates and agreed with the Court of Justice of the EU that liability for compensation depends on the delay in arriving at the ‘final destination’.
The ruling could open the floodgates to claims against the non-EU airlines, leaving them on the hook for hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation.
The Civil Aviation Authority says the ruling could benefit as many as 200,000 passengers a year who arrive at their final destination more than three hours late after missing a connecting flight in a non-EU airport. But the total number could be as high as 1.2million because passengers have up to six years to claim for a delayed flight.
Rory Boland, travel editor of consumer group Which?, said: ‘For airlines that have been sidestepping the law for too long this judgment makes clear that they must play by the rules and pay passengers the compensation they are owed.’
Passengers delayed between three and four hours are in line for £270, while compensation rises to £540 for delays of four hours or more. This means a family of four could receive as much as £2,160, and airlines face paying out between £325million and £650million.
The CAA said it had asked Emirates to accept the judgment. It has also written to American Airlines, Etihad and Singapore Airlines to ensure they comply.
It said Turkish Airlines had ‘worked constructively’ with the CAA and was compensating passengers.