Celebrating air passengers flooded internet forums at the end of October 2014. The Supreme Court confirmed an earlier decision of the Court of Appeal in Huzar v Jet2.com regarding passenger rights to monetary compensation. English law now gives passengers the right to compensation for a delay greater than 3 hours, if caused by a faulty aircraft.
In practice, airlines can no longer rely on the usual brush-off defence of 'unexpected flight safety shortcomings'. The court tells us that we don't need to care about what airlines do to keep their flying machines in the air. This is surely brilliant news.
Not so fast.
The highest English courts have certainly helped disappointed air passengers. Most airlines are now following the law. Indeed, many passengers can confirm that their claims are being dealt with in a fairer manner.
However, the phrase 'most airlines' in the previous paragraph was chosen with some care. Not all, namely Jet2 and Ryanair, have assumed the submissive approach to their legal liability. Those that have, deserve a degree of credit; those that have not, will take their passengers on yet another legal roller coaster.
Jet2's spanner in the works again
Recently, a great number of court claims in which technical faults remain the main bone of contention have been subject to further adjournment applications despite the decision in the Huzar case. Unsurprisingly, Ryanair and Jet2 have dug themselves in against the passengers. For now, let's hope others will not follow. The law is confirmed and given by the Supreme Court so why are they allowed to do so?
Where is a will, there is a way.
A Dutch court in C. Van Der Lans v KLM case has asked the European Court of Justice to give its opinion on a similar matter covering the nature of technical faults that the English courts considered in the Huzar case. Bizarrely, this constitutes a reason for some airlines to apply for further adjournments on claims going to courts in the UK.
Some UK and Irish courts grant these applications, some reject them. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court gave us a clarity that is now blurred by the further machinations of some airlines. And when the C. Van Der Lans case reconfirms the Huzar decision in February 2015, is there going to be another European case at some point in the future that will yet again give airlines a reason to pull our legs?
The Consumer is King
Everyone knows that technical problems occur in all machines. Aircraft are no exception to this rule and airlines are required to take this into account in their operations. Some are better at handling these issues than others. Perhaps this is the time that air travellers should be made aware of exactly what level of service they expect to receive when something goes wrong. Consumers do not want to fight service providers for their rights. They wish for a peace of mind. The same peace of mind that some airlines fight, and will continue to fight to take away from us.