Huzzah for Mr Huzah? Or will airfares rise?

Huzzah for Mr Huzah? Or will airfares rise?

Under the EU's 'Denied Boarding Regulations', airplane passengers are entitled to compensation if their flight is cancelled or delayed for more than a certain number of hours, depending on the distance to be flown, unless the disruption is caused by 'extraordinary circumstances'.

Typical examples of such out-of-the-ordinary situations include poor weather conditions (common), unexpected civil strife (less common) or herds of wildebeest crashing through the airport's perimeter fence and having an impromptu sit-in on the runway (rare).

The 'extraordinary circumstances' exemption is also commonly relied upon by airlines when technical faults to aircraft occur. Given the complexity of aircraft—an Airbus A380 contains about 4 million individual components—this is perhaps not a surprise.

However, a Court of Appeal case last week, Huzar v, has put a spanner in the works of this legal loophole, at least so far as the airlines are concerned.

Whilst the relevant test to be used when determining whether the exemption can be relied upon can be tricky to apply (for those with a LexisPSL subscription, see further analysis here), the upshot of the case is that most technical faults are likely to no longer be considered as being 'extraordinary circumstances' even where that fault was not visible on prior inspection or during routine maintenance. The CAA has admitted as much.

So are the proverbial floodgates for claims being opened?

Perhaps. In any event, this case will present massive challenges to the industry.

The EU's figures state that compensation is payable on potentially 1.5%, 1% and 0.4% of long, medium and short-haul flights respectively. Although these Commission figures include data on flights that may be delayed due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’ (eg for which airlines do not need to pay compensation) it is clear that, with hundreds of millions of Europeans taking to the air every year and the exemption for 'extraordinary ci

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