Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Passengers could get compensation after BA court ruling

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The judgement against British Airways could affect thousands of airline compensation claims annually

The Supreme Court has ruled a flight being cancelled because of a pilot becoming ill before work did not count as an “extraordinary circumstance”, meaning passengers were entitled to compensation.

It said the decision “has the potential to affect tens of thousands of claims which are made annually” under the relevant law.

Kenneth and Linda Lipton took BA Cityflyer, an arm of British Airways, to court after their claim was rejected.

Five Supreme Court judges dismissed the airline’s appeal against an earlier Court of Appeal ruling.

The Liptons, from Kent, were due to fly from Milan Linate Airport in Italy to London City Airport in January 2018. The pilot didn’t show up for work because they were unwell. A replacement couldn’t be found.

The couple were rebooked onto another flight, which got them to London just over 2.5 hours later than scheduled.

They claimed the equivalent of about £220 in compensation for this delay, under EU regulations.

Airlines have a defence if they can show that a cancellation happened because of unavoidable extraordinary circumstances.

Cityflyer turned down the claim, arguing that the pilot falling ill was such a situation.

Two courts agreed, but the Court of Appeal ruled in the Liptons’ favour.

‘A victory for common sense’

The company took its case to the Supreme Court, which unanimously dismissed its appeal.

In their judgment – which was backed by three other justices – Lord Sales and Lady Rose said it “does not matter” when the pilot fell ill, as the crew member remained an “inherent part of the airline’s operation” even when not on duty.

They said not coming to work because something had “[gone] awry” during rest periods did not count as an extraordinary circumstance.

In a statement issued by law firm Irwin Mitchell following the ruling, Mr and Mrs Lipton said they “never wanted to be in this position”.

They described their win as “a victory for people who are prepared to fight for common sense and justice against corporate behemoths who have access to every resource”.

Rocio Concha from consumer group Which? described the Supreme Court’s decision as “highly significant for travellers, confirming as we head into the busy summer period that staff illness is not an acceptable reason to deny paying compensation for significant delays or cancellations”.

A spokesperson for BA said: “We are disappointed with this decision and respect the judgment of the court.”

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