What Are Extraordinary Circumstances When A Flight Is Delayed?

What Are Extraordinary Circumstances When A Flight Is DelayedA question often asked about flight delay compensation is “What Are Extraordinary Circumstances When A Flight Is Delayed?”

Flight delay compensation is regulated by EU Regulation 261/2004.

The intention behind this legislation is to enhance passenger rights when they fly. The legislation provides legal support for passengers to enforce these rights.

The EU Regulation specifies that an airline is not obliged to pay financial compensation for a delayed or canceled flight:

  • If it can prove that the delay or the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances; and
  • Which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

What extraordinary circumstances are deemed NOT to be the airlines fault?

What Are Considered Extraordinary Circumstances When A Flight Is DelayedDelay flights where the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances are not the fault of the airline.

Airlines must prove that the delay or cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances. Circumstances which could not have been avoided, even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

The following scenarios fall within the bounds of “Extraordinary Circumstances” for the purposes of flight delay compensation.

So here’s a list of extraordinary circumstances for flight delays:

  • Extreme weather conditions such as snow and hurricanes.
  • Erupting volcanoes which produce ash clouds.
  • Political unrest or civil unrest in a country where travel is not recommended or which causes disruption to flights.
  • Unlawful acts like acts of terrorism or sabotage to a carriers fleet.
  • Security risks including the closure of an airport for security reasons, discovery of a bomb, hi-hacking of an aircraft, suspicious baggage removal, removal of passengers that threaten the security of the plane.
  • Manufacturing defects on the aircraft.
  • Industrial action. Strikes relating to airport staff (like baggage handlers) are not the fault of the airline. However, where the airline staff strike this may be the airline's fault.*
  • War where it causes disruption to flights or where either travel is not recommended or it causes aircraft fuel to be limited.
  • Meteorological conditions where the events affect the safe operation of the flight, for example fog, lightning, hailstones, thunderstorms and severe turbulence.
  • Bird strikes.
  • In-flight damage to an aircraft caused by a foreign object, which requires immediate assessment or repair.
  • Air traffic management where air traffic control suspends operations into and out of an airport or airspace through which the air carrier must pass.
  • Medical grounds where a crew member becomes seriously ill or dies on board at short notice before the flight.

No Win No Fee Flight Delay Compensation claim processed for you – Click here to find out more.

What are not extraordinary circumstances and therefore deemed to be the airlines fault?

What are not extraordinary circumstances not deemed to be the airlines faultFlight delays where there circumstances are not considered to be extraordinary, which are classed as the fault of the airline, include the following scenarios:

  • Lateness of airline crew which leads to under staffing (i.e. where the airline does not have sufficient backup in place with replacement crew).
  • Staff and crew sickness which leads to under staffing (i.e. where the airline does not have sufficient backup in place with replacement crew).
  • Denied boarding resulting from an overbooked aircraft.
  • Technical problems with the aircraft which are not hidden manufacturer defects. These are issues that should have been addressed during normal maintenance or operation of the aircraft.
  • The late arrival of the in-bound flight which causes your outbound flight to be delayed where it was affected by bad weather.
  • Crew out of hours when this occurs as a result of poor operational planning.
  • Absence of correct flight documentation where the failure to prepare and submit the documents was the airlines fault.

Strike action is not always clear cut when it comes to flight compensation claims

*  When it comes to strike action, this is not clear cut, as there seems to be differing opinions on this scenario. However, there’s no dispute where any strike involves non-airline staff, for example baggage handlers or air traffic control. Strikes of this nature would clearly not be the fault of the airline.

When it comes to technical problems with the plane, only those that are a manufacturers defect are considered extraordinary circumstances.

Strikes of this kind would be regarded as extraordinary circumstances as far as flight delay compensation goes.

However, the timing of the flight delay needs to be taken into account with regards to strikes relating to non-airline staff or crew.

A European Court of Justice ruling in October 2012 stated that: “Airlines should compensate passengers if they are denied boarding resulting from a strike, after the strike takes place.”

For example, if the strike occurred on the Tuesday, and due to the circumstances this was considered extraordinary circumstances, no flight delay compensation would be payable. However, if there are delays on Wednesday, after the strike is over, then compensation would be payable.

What about flight delays caused by strikes involving the airline’s own staff?

However, with regards flight delays caused by strikes that involve the airline’s staff or crew, this is a bit more complex, as follows:

If the delay is caused by the airline’s staff striking, and it is thought that the strike could have been avoided or resolved by the airline beforehand, then you may be entitled to compensation in this case.

However, situations involving these circumstances have yet to be tested in the courts. In any case, the circumstances that caused the delay would be judged on the merits of the specific set of circumstances.

However, the following additional EU Regulations apply to flight delays and cancellations

EU regulations that apply to flight delay compensationWhere you are making your own flight delay compensation claim, you may wish to review the following additional rules. Some airlines are notorious at trying to avoid having to payout flight delay or cancellation compensation.

They also use various methods to avoid such claims, however, they are obliged to cooperate with you during the flight claim process, as follows:

  • The airline is obliged to provide you with evidence of the extraordinary circumstances on which they are relying to deny the flight compensation claim.
  • Where the flight delay or cancellation rules apply to your flight, an airline must always pay you compensation where there’s no clear evidence of an extraordinary event.
  • Airlines are expected to have sufficient resources to avoid flight delays, once the extraordinary circumstances have passed.
  • Proof of an extraordinary circumstance should be provided by the airline operator free of charge.
  • An airline is not permitted to deny the provision of such evidence by using internal policy or by saying that the information is confidential.
  • The airline must also clearly demonstrate how these circumstances resulted in the flight disruption.
  • The air carrier must also explain what reasonable measures it took to mitigate the disruption.

Airlines are obliged to provide proof of extraordinary circumstances free of charge and demonstrate that the circumstances were what caused the delay.

But what about waiting for passengers or passenger offloads?

Many of us been on board a plane waiting for that late passenger. Or we’ve been told by the pilot or crew that the bag of a ‘no-show passenger‘ is being off-loaded.

If the flight is delayed as a result of either of these circumstances, these are considered to be within the control of the airline. They are therefore not extraordinary circumstances. If a flight delay of more than three hours results, then flight delay compensation would become due.

No Win No Fee Flight Delay Compensation claim processed for you – Click here to find out more.

Questions or comments on what are extraordinary circumstances when a flight is delayed?

If you have any questions on what are extraordinary circumstances when a flight is delayed, please pop a comment in the box below. Please also feel free to comment below with your experience of a flight delay claim with Thomson.

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