Airlines face compensation claims for bad weather delays

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Airlines are facing a costly winter, either in the courts or in the accounts department, after a landmark legal ruling. Easyjet were forced to pay compensation to passenger Frederique Jager after her flight was delayed because of earlier bad weather. It opens up the possibility of airlines having to pay up to £510 compensation for weather-related delays.

Airlines might be able to insure themselves against future claims, but the immediate source of alarm is the possibility that claims going back over the last six years could amount to tens of millions. In the past airlines covered themselves with an "extraordinary circumstances" clause, related to events beyond their control, usually meaning weather.

The Chester court found that passengers on later flights delayed by a knock-on effect of earlier weather problems should not be denied compensation. For budget airlines reliant on a fast turnaround between flights and thus more vulnerable to weather disruption, the costs could be daunting.

Jager's 2012 flight, from Gatwick to Nice landed three hours and 12 minutes later than scheduled. Under EU compensation rules, travellers can claim for any delay over three hours. The sums rise from £210 for a short-haul flight to a maximum claim of £510.

Jager's solicitor Paul Hinchliffe told the Mail: "It’s a victory for passenger rights. The law is clear and airlines continue to exhibit a flagrant disregard for the regulations. The very fact that passengers have to resort to using a solicitor to recover their compensation shows the lack of respect the airlines have towards their customers."

An Easyjet spokesperson said: "We are reviewing the cases to understand whether further measures can be put in place to minimise the impact of adverse weather on our flying schedule." Another budget airline boss, Ryanair's combative chief executive Michael O'Leary, is unlikely to take this lying down. The ruling strikes at the basic business model of budget flights.

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