Passengers of non-EU airlines who miss connecting flights outside the region will now be able to claim compensation following a Court of Appeal ruling against Emirates.
The court backed a passenger in a case against the Dubai-based carrier over whether or not non-EU airlines should pay flight delay compensation for missed connections.
The verdict came down in favour of the passenger, named only as Gahan.
The ruling means passengers of non-EU airlines who suffer a delay on the first leg of a flight departing from the UK which caused them to miss an onward connecting flight outside the EU – resulting in arrival at their final destination at least three hours late – can claim compensation of up to €600.
Emirates, along with three other non-EU airlines, had argued that if the second missed connecting flight was outside the European bloc, they were not liable to pay compensation.
The UK aviation regulator welcomed the ruling as clarifying that passengers flying with a non-EU airline are entitled to compensation if a flight departing from the UK is delayed by at least three hours at the final destination, as a result of a missed connection outside Europe.
The court’s decision confirms the Civil Aviation Authority’s interpretation of EC 261 delay compensation rules and reaffirms its decision to take enforcement action against five major airlines in February for refusing to pay compensation in these instances.
“We are pleased to say that Turkish Airlines has since worked constructively with the CAA and is now compensating passengers for missed connections,” the authority said.
“The CAA has written to Emirates and asked the airline to be good to its word and accept the Court of Appeal judgement.
“We have also written to the other three airlines, American Airlines, Etihad and Singapore Airlines, to ensure they comply with the ruling immediately.”
The Court of Appeal agreed with the Court of Justice of the European Union that liability for compensation for delay depends on the delay in arriving at the “final destination”.
Where more than one flight is taken to reach the final destination, the flights are taken together for the purpose of assessing whether there has been a three hour or more delay.
CAA chief executive Andrew Haines said: “The Court of Appeal’s ruling could not be clearer and is fantastic news for passengers, who can now demand airlines pay them the compensation they are entitled to when they miss a connecting flight.
“This ruling sends a clear message to Emirates and the other airlines that have used protracted legal processes to prolong their refusal to give consumers their legal entitlement.
“Any flight disruption is frustrating but delays that cause passengers to miss a connecting flight have a particularly damaging effect on people’s travel plans.
“For a family of four this compensation could be worth as much as €2,400 and we will not hesitate to take further action if airlines fail to comply.”
Rory Boland, travel editor at consumer magazine Which?, welcomed the news but called for automatic compensation.
He said: “For airlines that have been sidestepping the law for too long this judgement makes clear that they must play by the rules and pay passengers the compensation that they are owed.
“This is yet another example of why passengers should receive automatic compensation so that they don’t have to jump through hoops to get what they are entitled to.”
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