Posted on 30th March 2016

In January, there was yet another twist in the plot of the ever-developing law regarding delayed flights.  This time it came from Her Honour Judge Melissa Clarke, sitting at Luton County Court, in the matter of Evans v Monarch Airlines.

Facts

Two passengers had brought a claim in reliance upon Regulation 261/2004, for compensation for a five hour delay in their flight returning from Egypt, caused by lightning strikes.

The aircraft that was scheduled to fly the claimants home had arrived in Gatwick from Nice on the morning of the return journey, the intention being that it would fly out to Hurgada and then return to Gatwick.  The aircraft was reportedly struck by lightning on take-off from Nice; on further inspection at Gatwick, this was found to be the case, and so the plane was grounded, causing knock on delays for the claimants, twiddling their thumbs in Hurgada.  Another plane was sent to the rescue, meaning that the claimants’ flight was 4 hours and 56 minutes late in departing from Hurgada.

HHJ Clarke upheld their claims, finding that lightning does not fall within the exception of “extraordinary circumstances” that would allow the airline to avoid liability.  The claimants were awarded £450 each for the delay to their journey.

This latest decision compounds the message sent time and again from the courts to airlines, that Regulation 261 provides great protection for aggrieved passengers, with very little room for airlines to escape liability.  HHJ Clarke’s judgment is potentially open to criticism, and we will be waiting to see whether Monarch have an appetite for appeal.

This article was written by No5 Barrister Naomi Owen.

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