Passengers will be able to claim compensation when flights are suddenly delayed or cancelled due to “wildcat” strikes following a major court ruling.

European judges yesterday ruled in passengers’ favour at the European Court of Justice.

The victory for passengers opens the door for millions of pounds in compensation each year to be paid to UK passengers alone.

Many of these compensation claims have been previously denied by airlines on the grounds of ‘extraordinary circumstances’, according to flight delay compensation law firm Bott and Co.

A 16-day strike by British Airways cabin crew in July last year, which was then extended for a further two weeks into August 2017, affected more than 60,000 passengers at Heathrow. Bott and Co estimates that this strike alone is worth £25 million in compensation to passengers.

Solicitor Coby Benson said: “Airlines have argued for a long time that staff strikes are an extraordinary circumstance.

“This judgment from the European Court is the latest in a long line of cases that confirms airlines are often obliged to provide monetary compensation of up to £530 to passengers who find their travel plans severely disrupted at the last minute.”

The ruling that sudden strikes by airline staff should not be classed as ‘extraordinary circumstances’ will be legally binding throughout Europe and will hold precedent in UK cases, according to the firm.

“This ruling shows that the courts believe it remains the airline’s responsibility to ensure they have contingencies in place to guarantee their passengers still arrive on time,” Bott and Co said.

The case before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg related to whether disruption caused by sudden airline staff industrial action are claimable under EU flight delay Regulation 261

The verdict was handed in the German case of Helga Krüsemann and others verses TUIfly.

This involved staff going on sick leave for a week in October 2016 as a result of a company restructure announcement.

Absence on the grounds of sickness rose from 10% to 89% for cockpit crew and up to 62% for cabin crew over ten days.

This ‘wildcat strike’ caused flight interruptions, with many Tuifly flights being cancelled or delayed for more than three hours.

The case was taken to local German courts who then asked the Court of Justice to determine whether spontaneous absence of a significant part of the flight staff in the form of a wildcat strike falls within the concept of ‘extraordinary circumstances’.