A Supreme Court ruling means Emirates owe millions in compensation to customers
As of last month, airlines will now be expected to accept liability and pay passengers compensation for missed flight connections.
The new ruling by the Supreme Court refused Emirates to appeal against a decision, which stated that they must pay compensation to customers who arrive at their destination over three hours late, after missing their connection at a non-EU airport.
It is unknown how much compensation money Emirates will have to pay out, but it has been suggested that the final bill will be in the millions.
The Court’s decision confirms the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) interpretation of EC 261/2004.
The CAA commenced enforcement action against five airlines, including Emirates, last year for failing to compensate passengers that had suffered long delays (of over three hours) as a result of a missed flight connection outside the EU.
Passengers can get refunds for delays which are the airline’s fault
Under EU law, you may be entitled to compensation from your airline if you miss a connection.
While the other four airlines moved into compliance following the CAA’s enforcement action, one of the world’s largest airlines – Emirates – attempted to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court, which has now been refused.
The test case will now set a precedence for others in the same position, who may be able to claim up to €600 (£528), as well as allowing retrospective claims to be made for passengers who have missed connections going back as far as six years.
Under current EU law, passengers may be entitled to compensation if they miss a flight connection.
So, if you are travelling from London to Sydney, but have a stopover in Dubai and miss your connecting flight, you may be entitled to compensation from the airline.
According to CAA guidance: “Under EU law, you may be entitled to compensation from your airline if you miss a connection.
Emirates were disappointed by the Supreme Court ruling
“To be covered by these rules, your flight must be either: departing from an EU airport and operated by any airline or; arriving at an EU airport and operated by an EU airline.”
This includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
“If your journey involves flights with airlines from different countries, it’s generally the nationality of the airline at fault that determines your rights.
“For instance, if a delay on your first flight causes you to miss your second, it’s the airline operating the first flight that is responsible.”
However, you may only be entitled to compensation if you have a “through ticket”.
This is a “single ticket [with] one reservation for your entire journey”, explains the CAA.
“The cause of you missing your connection must also be within the airline’s control” it claims.
If your flight is delayed by over three hours and is the airline’s fault, you may be entitled to between €250 to €600 (£220 to £528). This also applies to package holidays.
However, if you missed your connection due to severe weather conditions, such as the recent Beast of the East 2, you would not receive compensation because it is not within the airline’s control.
Strikes, airspace closure and risk of terrorism constitute being outside of the airline’s control.
To claim compensation the CAA advises travellers to contact the airline directly and provide evidence of the delay or missed connection including receipts.
Chief executive of the CAA, Andrew Haines, welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision. He said in a press statement: “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.”
A spokeswoman for Emirates commented to Travel Weekly: “We are very disappointed by the Supreme Court’s ruling denying us leave to appeal against the earlier judgement of the High Court in relation to the application of Regulation EC261 to flights of non-community carriers originating outside of the EU.
“As one of the world’s largest airlines, we always comply with all legal requirements and based on the judgement, we’ll advise customers of our approach in due course.”