/ Travel & Leisure

What’s the longest you’ve been delayed at the airport?

Woman frustrated in airport waiting room

There’s no doubt we’ll all have experienced a delayed flight. But what happens when your flight is delayed due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’? A recent court ruling could shake things up…

The case of Mr Ronald Huzar is all over the news at the moment. Delayed for 27 hours on a Manchester to Malaga flight in 2011, Mr Huzar was told the flight delay was caused by faulty wiring – which the airline, Jet2, claimed was an unforeseen extraordinary circumstance and therefore not liable for compensation.

However, the court ruled that the defective wiring was faulty due to wear and tear, rather than anything more extraordinary – possibly setting the ball rolling for other claims of technical faults.

Can technical be extraordinary?

With the summer looming, this ruling is very timely for holidaymakers hopping on flights to make the most of the summer sun.

Flight delays and cancellations are a bugbear we often hear about on our Consumer Rights website, with people telling us about technical problems meaning they are not liable for compensation.

For example, consumer rights advocate Nikki contacted us with a delay experienced of more than 3 and a half hours after a technical fault with an Easyjet flight.

Remember, technical faults, unless they stem from events which are not inherent in the normal exercise of the air carrier, do not count as examples of extraordinary circumstances.

So what is an extraordinary circumstance?

Of course, there are some circumstances that can truly be described as extraordinary and cannot be reasonably expected to be foreseen by the airline.

However, in order for them to be viewed as such, they must be seen to be three things: unpredictable, unavoidable and external. So – hurricane, yes. Faulty plane – potentially no.

Further examples would include if there is any disruption caused by political instability in the country you are going to and flying is not recommended or if someone on your flight gets unruly and has to be removed.

Have you ever had a flight delay or cancellation because of an extraordinary circumstance? Did you know what counts as an extraordinary circumstance? Will you try to get compensation after the new ruling?

Sophie Gilbert says:
15 June 2014

I had a couple of flights cancelled during the bad winter of a few years ago because of very heavy snow in Edinburgh and Heathrow. BA offered a flight the next day or a refund without my having to ask. I took the option of a flight the next day, and then the next day I opted for the refund rather than yet another flight the next day, both of which were spontaneously offered again by BA. No complaints there.

Another time I had a flight delayed until the next day because of heavy fog in Luton. This time it was easyJet who spontaneously offered to put me up in a hotel and fly me home the next day. Apart from the fact that I had to fight to get refunded the full price of my night’s stay in a hotel (easyJet initially were only going to refund me £80 instead of the full £88 – like they don’t make enough money!), I am satisfied with the way I was treated by easyJet.

I have a few other examples of being treated correctly by airlines after delays and missed flights, so luckily no unhappy experiences for me yet.

If you choose to fly to a politically unstable country against recommendation, maybe you don’t “deserve” to be compensated, and maybe airlines can’t always recognise potentially unruly passengers as they are boarding the plane, but what about travel insurance kicking in at least in the latter case? Another subject, but I wouldn’t be surprised if insurance companies too had a caveat somewhere meaning you’re stuffed.

Gloria Thienel says:
16 June 2014

We had 27hrs delay on Virgin Flight from Gatwick to Orlando in OCT 2008.

Virgin said it was due to techincal problem with plane & did not have a back-up. Beyoun their control !!!!!! They refused my claim .
I went to CAA and they still refused . After this ruling I will be going back to them

I am not surprised the CAA refused your claim. Contrary to popular belief, these authorities are all on the side of big business. I have had a very good claim for PPI mis-selling constantly rejected by the Financial Ombudsman’s office. The office pretend your claim is handled by one person, but it isn’t, the phone number at the bottom of the page claims to be a direct line and it is nothing of the sort, there is complete chaos there and the clerks are incompetent, and many barely speak English.

Sandra Martín says:
16 June 2014

Hi, everyone,
I had a couple of problems with delays and cancellations and each time the airlines has treated me fair enough, paying me a hotel night’s stay. They never gave me “technical issues” as a reason for the delay, but I know some cases. A friend of mine, for instance, had an issue with a flight London-Paris last year, and the airline didn’t want to refund her the money. She made a claim through a flight claim service and she won £300.
I think this court ruling will help a lot of people to claim their rights as passengers. In the meantime, this kind of companies might serve to claim a money compensation which correspond to you legally.

[Link removed. Thanks, mods.]

Klara says:
16 June 2014

Our Easyjet flight from Amsterdam to Split was cancelled a few years ago. First we were on board for at least three hours – having been told there was a technical fault and that it would be fixed. The part had to be brought by another plane from abroad. Once this was fixed, we were told that the crew could no longer stay as their shift was over and it was illegal for them to continue working. We were told we could book another flight to the same destination with any airline. This resulted in chaotic activity as not everyone had wifi enabled devices. I telephoned a friend who managed to book me onto another flight but two days later (losing three days of my holiday) and with Croatia Airlines, at a price which was way above what I had paid to Easyjet. It took me five months and extensive correspondence to get a refund from Easyjet. A very frustrating experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

The plane that brought the spare part (if this is true, one has no way of checking) could easily have been used to take you all to your destination, but airlines weasel their way out of that one.

Star says:
16 June 2014

Thomas Cook still claiming EC for a technical problem AFTER Huzar case & I’m not confident in taking airline to small claims court, it’s a little daunting so they win.
How can they be allowed to do this?

Some years ago, I translated complaints from passengers who were on a British Airways shopping excursion flight from the Middle East which was supposed to be a weekend excursion (Friday to Sunday evening). The plane they were supposed to catch broke down and BA refused to send another one. There were huge delays in both directions, they had about three hours in London out of the 73 they were promised, it was a scandal. Naturally, they had been made to pay in advance. If airlines organise risky events like these, they should be under an obligation to provide a replacement plane, of course it will cost them money but they must be forced to do so.

Our longest delay was 24 hours flying from Orlando to LGW with Virgin claim and appeal were both turned down

David Brown says:
19 June 2014

Our flight home from Miami to Heathrow in April this year had to turn around and return to Miami one hour into the flight due to a technical issue. We were delayed 25 hours before coming home the following evening. BA have rejected our claim due to a “technical issue”, so based on the Huzar ruling we have now referred it back to them. Fingers crossed..

Andrew says:
23 June 2014

We were delayed 14 hours on a recent Ryanair flight from Palermo (5 June, flight Fr3919) and the following day Ryanair emailed us to say there would be no compensation as this was due to extraordinary circumstances. I have written to Ryanair. No reply. In fact we had to stay at a hotel at Stansted on our arrival at 3am and incurred £156 of actual extra expenditure. Our travel insurance tell us this only covers us until we are “home” though we do not live at or anywhere near Stansted!

What is the use in Which? publishing pro forma letters and details of our consumer rights when Ryanair flagrantly avoids responsibility?

What more redress is there?

Stuart Carroll says:
11 July 2014

When returning on a round trip to Los Angeles earlier this year with United I had my first leg cancelled due to a technical problem with the plane. I feared the worst but was rerouted by United staff onto Lufthansa flights with Lufthansa even providing enhanced seating to compensate for the fact my arrival would be slightly delayed (just a few hours).

No fuss, no quibble, no arguments, just genuine attempts to fix the problem quickly. Fair play.

Most of the comments here are critical of the industry (understandably I might add), but it’s not all doom and gloom!

sharon says:
13 July 2014

It was about 10 years ago aprox but we used Virgin to go to Antigua for a wedding, i kept smelling something rather nasty long story short previous passenger had been ill the seat was not cleaned properly and i had been sitting in sick I stank was embarrassed and they were rude and arrogant didnt even offer to move us (yes there were other seats) we did contact at the time but they were not interested

roy thorning says:
21 August 2015

My flight from Cape Town to Heathrow, BA58 on the 23rd November 2014 was delayed a full 24 hours, reason being “a blockage” of the runway caused the flight to be diverted. Once diverted the Captain terminated the flight because the “crew were out of hours”, has anyone claimed on this flight and succeeded