A London barrister is reported to have won a landmark case which could see airlines forced to refund passengers who have had their bookings cancelled.

Family law barrister James Dove won compensation from Iberia following a trip to Madrid.

He had bought a return ticket from London to the Spanish capital but arrived a few minutes after check-in closed at Gatwick for the outbound flight and missed the departure. He bought a one-way ticket to Spain on another carrier.

He was aware that many airlines cancel a passenger’s entire itinerary if they fail to check in on time for the first flight. So he called Iberia to discuss whether he could have his return trip kept open.

Dove was told that the whole trip had been cancelled, in line with Iberia’s conditions of carriage, so he bought a flight home on a different airline.

He then sought to recover the cost of the Madrid-London flight, arguing that it was an unfair for Iberia to keep the money.

At the Mayor’s and City of London Court, deputy district Judge Case agreed with Dove, The Independent reported. The judge ordered Iberia to pay back the money for the Madrid-London leg, amounting to £179.

The Spanish airline, which is owned by British Airways parent International Airlines Group, confirmed to the newspaper that the refund had been sent to Dove. He has also been refunded the court fees and loss of earnings during the hearing.

Dove said: “I believe that this judgment means anyone who has lost money because the airline cancelled the return of their trip will now be able to claim it back.

“Although this judgment is not binding, it could be used to persuade judges hearing similar cases.”

Iberia has until next Monday to lodge an appeal.

The decision could see airline customers demand refunds for cancelled flights at any time in the past six years in England and Wales and five years in Scotland.