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Court of Appeal: delayed air passengers have six years to claim

A judgement in the UK Court of Appeal last week has opened up the floodgates for thousands of air passengers to claim compensation for flight delays, cancellations and cases of denied boarding. Holidaymakers will now be able to claim up to six years after their flight. The ruling was made only one week after another significant battle was won by air passengers in the Court of Appeal with the Huzar vs Jet2.com case.

Thomson Airways: claim must be submitted within two years

The judges with the UK Court of Appeal rejected Thomson Airways' challenge last week, on 19 June. Thomson had refused to pay James Dawson compensation for an eight-hour delay he experienced in 2006, saying claims could only be submitted up to two years after the flight date. The statute of limitations in the EU prescribes that compensation claims must be brought within two years. However, most UK airlines already allowed claims to be submitted up to six years after the flight, as the statute of limitations in the UK is set at six years. Thomson argued that allowing claims older than two years was in conflict with European law, as well as the Montreal Convention which limits claims to two years from the date of the incident. The airline decided to stay Dawson's case as well as many other ones, until a verdict would be reached in the Court of Appeal.

The three judges decided last week that the time limit for bringing claims must be determined by the limitations period of each individual country of the European Union. This means travellers can make claims up to six years after their delay (under the Limitation Act) in England, Wales and Ireland, and five years in Scotland. Mr Dawson will thus finally be paid the legal compensation of €600 (£480) per person. One of the judges in the case, Lord Justice Moore-Bick said: "Although the amount involved is small, the principles to which it gives rise are of considerable importance to airlines and passengers alike." Lawyers predict the ruling could affect up to 11 million air passengers, adding up to four billion pounds in claims. Many cases that have been stayed will now be able to be taken to Court effectively. 

Which? director Richard Lloyd said: "This decision is a victory for consumers, and will bring some much-needed clarity to the confusing process of flight compensation." Thomson Airways has announced it intends on appealing the judgement in the Supreme Court. A spokesperson stated: "We believe that it is reasonable to expect that those who perceive they have suffered a real loss as a result of an unfortunate delay should be able to make their claim within two years. We also continue to believe that the law stipulates this and we are therefore surprised by today’s judgment."

Second win this month: Huzar vs Jet2.com

The Dawson vs Thomson judgement was made just a few days after the Court of Appeal also ruled in favour of air passengers in the Huzar vs Jet2.com ruling. In that case, airline Jet2.com refused to pay compensation to Mr Ronald Huzar, who experienced a delay of 27 hours on a flight from Malaga to Manchester in 2011. The airline argued Mr Huzar wasn't entitled to receive compensation because his delay had been the result of a technical error. According to Jet2.com, this constituted an 'extraordinary circumstance', or force majeure, meaning they weren't required to pay out. A judge in the county court in Manchester decided the airline was wrong and should pay out on 15 October 2013. Jet2.com however decided to stay the case and take it to the Court of Appeal, who then backed the previous judgement on 11 June.

The rulings will finally bring some clarity for UK air passengers, who have been fobbed off by airlines for the past many years. It remains unclear whether UK passengers who have been delayed flying with non-UK airlines can also claim up to six years after the flight date.

Written by: Team Flight-Delayed.co.uk