Airlines are expected to have to accept liability to pay compensation for missed connections following a legal ruling.

The supreme court yesterday refused Emirates permission to appeal in a missed connections test case brought by four passengers.

It confirmed a Court of Appeal decision that compensation for a missed connection is payable according to the length of delay arriving at the final destination irrespective of whether the destination and intermediate airport are located within or outside the European Union.

This covers connecting flights, the first of which originates from an airport located within the EU.

Mark Walker of Hughes Walker Solicitors, who acted for the four passengers in the appeal, welcomed the clarification.

He said: “This should enable many hundreds cases stayed in the County Court to be concluded.”

Several airlines have been threatened with enforcement action by Civil Aviation Authority and it is expected that all carriers will now fall into line and accept their liability, according to the law firm.

The CAA welcomed the Supreme Court decision to refuse Emirates’ permission to appeal.

The Supreme Court stated that Emirates’ appeal did not raise an arguable point of law, because the Court of Justice of the European Union had already given a clear answer.

The regulator will now progress enforcement action against Emirates to ensure that the airline complies with the law, requiring it to amend its policies and practices and to pay claims it had incorrectly refused previously.

CAA chief executive Andrew Haines said: “Emirates’ priority should be looking after its passengers, not finding ways in which they can prevent passengers accessing their rights.

“They have failed in their attempts to overturn the Court of Appeal judgement, which now means that millions of pounds worth of compensation is due to its customers. It is time for Emirates to pay what is owed.

“These types of court cases can be avoided when airlines commit to the Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme, to ensure a legally binding resolution to any disputed complaints about delays, cancellations and baggage. 35 airlines have already committed to ADR covering almost 80% of UK passenger journeys.

“This case highlights why it is so important for Emirates and the other remaining airlines, to follow suit in the interests of their passengers.”

The court’s decision confirms the CAA’s interpretation of EC 261/2004.

The CAA commenced enforcement action against five airlines on this point a year ago, including Emirates, for failing to compensate passengers that had suffered a long delay as a result of a missed connection outside the EU.

Four of the airlines moved into compliance following the CAA’s enforcement action, however Emirates sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, which has now been refused.

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