/ Travel & Leisure

Will you be affected by the latest flight rights victories?

Delayed flights on screen with holidaymakers

Things are looking up for those hit by flight delays. Two recent Supreme Court decisions against travel giants Thomson and Jet2 have given more teeth to our rights to claim flight compensation.

The Supreme Court ruled on the two cases relating to the European Denied Boarding Regulation, which establishes a consumer’s right to flight compensation for delays or cancellations.

In Dawson v Thomson, Thomson denied owing Mr Dawson compensation because he waited more than two years after his flight to make a claim. Thomson argued that consumers are subject to a two-year time limit on claiming flight compensation. Mr Dawson argued that the law allows up to six years for claims to be brought. The Court of Appeal agreed with Mr Dawson, and the Supreme Court refused to allow Thomson the right to appeal any further.

In Huzar v Jet2, Mr Huzar’s flight had been delayed due to a technical fault with the aircraft. Under the law, airlines don’t have to pay compensation if a delay is caused by “extraordinary circumstances”. Jet2 claimed that technical difficulties constitute “extraordinary circumstances”, such that airlines don’t have to pay up when delays arise due to technical faults. The Court of Appeal disagreed, and the Supreme Court refused to entertain Jet2’s appeal.

Six years for flight compensation claims

Thomson and Jet2 have now run out of chances to appeal within the UK court system. The law is, therefore, settled. Travellers have six years – not two – to exercise their rights and claim compensation for a cancellation or delay. And airlines can no longer argue that technical difficulties are “extraordinary circumstances” which rule out the right to compensation.

So if you’re one of the thousands whose compensation claim was put on “hold” by the travel industry while these court cases were being considered, your claim should now be processed by your airline. It’s inevitable that some delay will occur while the backlog is cleared, but you should follow up with the airline to find out when you’re likely to get a response.

If it’s approaching six years since your delay occurred and the airline isn’t engaging with your claim for compensation, you could consider escalating your claim to the Civil Aviation Authority or the small claims court.

The lawyers who acted for Mr Dawson and Mr Huzar claim that 11.8 million passengers will benefit from the result in Dawson v Thomson and an additional 2.36 million passengers per year will be able to claim compensation due to the result in Huzar v Jet2.

Have you been affected by a cancellation or delay? Do you believe your claim for compensation will be impacted by either of these court cases? Is an airline refusing to reconsider your claim?


I read somewhere that one company has hold their agents that until the original EU ruling is updated to reflect this they’ll resist paying out. 🙁

I am NOT the Mr. Dawson cited above. I have a sneaking sympathy with Thomson’s. Unless there is a genuine reason for not claiming within two years, that would seem to be long enough. Forcing companies to keep their records open for six years will only increase their costs and hence the price we pay.

Howard Quinn says:
7 November 2014

Dear Tim,

I disagree. I claimed promptly from Thomas Cook upon return from holiday in October 2012. Our flight was delayed by seven and a half hours because the plane would not fly due to “extraordinary” technical difficulties. Thomas Cook denied responsibility. During the following year a court ruling appeared to support my claim. I wrote again in October 2013. They again denied the claim pending an appeal. I have written again today 07/11/2014 due to the above rulings. My final letter is out of the two year period.

Tim Dawson – Section 5 of the Limitation Act 1980 limits court claims to six years, not two years. This is a blanket time limit that applies to almost every type of claim or industry. What do you believe is different about the airline industry that merits a much shorter two-year limit? I don’t see your logic.

Companies (and unincorporated businesses) must and should keep their records for six years. In this day and age of electronic record keeping at insignificant cost of storage and retrieval this period is no longer the burden that some claimed it was. Airlines and travel businesses have no special dispensation.

When making a claim against an airline for statutory compensation of €250, €400 or €600, don’t let the airline convert the EUR amount to GBP at a bad rate in their favour and then pay you in GBP. This is a common tactic by the airlines to shave a little off the amount of everyone’s claims, which saves them a lot of money. Instead find a friend with a EUR bank account to which the airline can pay the money and then your friend can withdraw the exact amount of EUR cash which you can spend during your next trip to the Eurozone.

Roger Dale says:
31 December 2014

We have sent a letter using the example on the Which? website, but the travel company have simply ignored us. The local travel agent who booked our holiday has contacted them several times, but has been also been ignored. I cannot find suggestions for subsequent actions on the Which? website for chasing up a non reply.

David Tinker says:
15 January 2015

I had a claim pending with Jet 2, which was on hold, pending the Supreme Court decision. Following that decision, I contacted Jet2 to process the claim, but was told that, irrespective of the Supreme Court, Jet2 was now awaiting a CJEU ruling on the Van der Lans case, and, in any case, as my claim dated back to June 2011, their primary position was that I could not claim, as it is time barred after 2 years, under their terms and conditions, so the 6 year rule does not apply! My understanding was that their terms and conditions does not override the legal position, as regards compensation, under the Statute of Limitations, which, in England, is 6 years, and the Supreme Court overruled the Montreal Convention 2 year period? Are there any views on this latest position statement from Jet2 continuing to frustrate claims?

sheila steele says:
19 February 2015

Mr Tinker I have received a letter saying the same but as you say it is 6 yrs not 2yrs. Have you replied back to Jet2 regarding their letter.