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EC 261/2004: wear and tear or 'extraordinary circumstances'?

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EC 261/2004: wear and tear or 'extraordinary circumstances'?

Old 20th Jan 2015, 23:01
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EC 261/2004: wear and tear or 'extraordinary circumstances'?

A friend of mine is engaged in a dispute with a European airline over whether the delay to her flight from the UK to Spain is the result of mechanical failure caused by normal wear and tear or, as the airline asserts, extraordinary circumstances. The CAA has already come down in my friend's favour, though the matter has dragged on for some months.

The reason provided for the delay was a problem with magnetic chip detectors in one engine. Whilst normally inspected weekly, the detectors were then placed on a daily watch. Problems were subsequently discovered with similar detectors on the same engine's gearbox, resulting in a replacement of the transfer gearbox, thereby grounding the plane.

European rules appear to place what occurred firmly in the category of mechanical wear and tear, though the airline is understandably adamant. Could this matter ever reasonably be attributed to extraordinary circumstances?

UPDATE:

Folks, I'd like to thank you all for replying to my post. Since last week, a settlement has been reached in my friend's case. Apologies for not responding sooner, but this is the first chance I have had to log in since posting.

Last edited by S2ACR; 28th Jan 2015 at 21:23. Reason: Situation resolved. Want to thank those who responded.
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Old 21st Jan 2015, 07:55
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The regulation does not define 'extraordinary circumstances' leaving it up to national courts to interpret it.

The Regulation also does not provide for compensation payments for delays of any type. However the ECJ ruled that a delay could be as harmful as a cancellation, but left it up to national courts to interpret if and when a delay is deserving of compensation. The general interpretation is that a delay should be at least 3 hours and resulted from something under the direct control of the airline.

It would appear that in your friends case the CAA, who is the UK's National Enforcement Body, is of the view that this particular delay was due to something under the airline's control. But the CAA cannot force the airline to pay compensation- that is the remit of the courts.

I suggest your friend consult with a lawyer experienced in R261 (who will take a share) or consider small claims court. Having a CAA interpretation will certainly help the courts decide, but it isn't a guarantee.
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Old 21st Jan 2015, 10:08
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Hi S2ACR and welcome to the 'cabin' of the esteemed machine PPRuNe.

The question you pose is certainly a new angle on the old question. I can tell you that ExXB is one of our most experienced contributors and has worked directly in the industry. So that answer may well be the best your friend will get!

I hope you stay around and share in the various forums.
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Old 22nd Jan 2015, 23:21
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I would endorse ExXB's advice, but add the comment that the so-called "Small Claims Court", aka "Money Claim Online" is the way to go.

You file on line, present your case in simple laymen's terms clearly and succintly. You attach the evidence that substantiates your case; ie documentation about the flight, your ticket, evidence of the delay and finally evidence from the CAA (See PS). You do not need to get a lawyer to do that; legal expertise is not required from the claimant. The Judge provides that.

The case will be considered by a Judge; you do not have to attend, and ExXB is right, on what you say you should win.

The filing fee goes up from 25 with the claim value. It's not a lot. You can claim reimbursement of reasonable expenses, legal compensation due, and the filing fee. Don't bother with spurious claims about your time, punitive payments etc etc.

The fee is an excellent investment.

Edit: PS I should have added that a reference and maybe short description of the law about compensation under which you are claiming would be a good idea.

Last edited by Capot; 23rd Jan 2015 at 21:59.
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Old 23rd Jan 2015, 07:43
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... And sometimes just the threat of going to court could get the airline to move. They could very well prefer to settle rather than have a precedent set.

Thanks Capot, for explaining how small claims works in the "Excited Kingdom".
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Old 23rd Jan 2015, 11:04
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It depends who the complaint is. If it is with TUI then they won't back down and will let it go to arbitration or 'small claims court'. Be prepared for it to go all the way. Believe me I know - I'm currently engaged in a battle due to them ruining my whole holiday, and not just a delay. And if you don't win you're potebtially facing a large bill.
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Old 23rd Jan 2015, 12:32
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I am facing a similar situation, my flight from XRY to MAD was cancelled due to the aircraft going tech, and IB claims extraordinary circumstances.

Go early JAN and my BA flight from XRY-JNB was cancelled by BA, the email I recieved as I write States bad weather, my arse... My flight was scheduled to leave 1820, there had been fog in the morning, my flight cancellation was the result of knock on scheduling.

There is too much ambiguity in the current EC rules, they need to be revised and tightened up for both carrier and passengers sake. As I have tried until my wits end to explain to the stupid spanish side of IAG."you piss me off any further, you loose business"

In both cases I am reporting the carriers to the regulator as the response is unsatisfactory.
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Old 23rd Jan 2015, 13:19
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261/2004 claims

'Discussions' regarding the ability to claim for delays/cancellations seem to fall into two camps. There are those who say that aircraft are technical mechanical machines, they go wrong so what do you expect? The normal scaremongering tactics are introduced regarding pressure upon crew to fly, resultant ticket price increases etc however IMO scaremongering.


The other 'camp' point to the fact 'the law is the law' and airlines should abide by same and there is no excuse (within the parameters of 261/2004) for not doing so.


The main problem occurs when passengers are not looked after both during and post delay and IMO this is where the airlines could significantly improve their position. Too many times words such as abandoned, treated like cattle occur. If airlines took a more responsible attitude to the very people who have paid their fares a lot of adverse publicity (and indeed delay claims) could be alleviated.


The fact that the LCC's are forcing people to go to the small claims court or use an ambulance chaser solicitor rather than acknowledge a legitimate claim is ridiculous. They are paying out significantly more in defending the indefensible than if they settled in the first instance.


The internet coverage regarding 261/2004 increases on a daily basis, in the main due to the attitude displayed by the airlines and indeed before you embark on a possible claim you may wish to read this comprehensive guide > https://dl.orangedox.com/GdfSa4xUZdZ...mpensation.pdf


At the end of the day your best ammunition is not to fly said airline and fly one of their competitors ......... until that is they have a delay ........ survival of the fittest.
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Old 23rd Jan 2015, 14:48
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The fact that the LCC's are forcing people to go to the small claims court or use an ambulance chaser solicitor rather than acknowledge a legitimate claim is ridiculous. They are paying out significantly more in defending the indefensible than if they settled in the first instance.
I'm not convinced that that is the case. As I and others have said before, it is standard policy to reject the first complaint with some lame "operational" reason which was "beyond their control". You might actually be surprised what percentage of claimants give up at this stage of proceedings. It's not until you make it quite clear to them that you WILL pursue matters through the courts that they pay up, still denying responsibility but as a "gesture of goodwill"! This applies to ALL carriers, not just the LCCs.
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Old 23rd Jan 2015, 17:53
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Originally Posted by 111KAB View Post


The main problem occurs when passengers are not looked after both during and post delay and IMO this is where the airlines could significantly improve their position. Too many times words such as abandoned, treated like cattle occur. If airlines took a more responsible attitude to the very people who have paid their fares a lot of adverse publicity (and indeed delay claims) could be alleviated.
But a lot of what passengers say when they are affected by delays or cancellations is pure exaggeration. I speak from much experience, working in 2 UK airports for many years covering all sorts of airlines, LCC and Full service, long haul and short haul, charter and scheduled.

You can't please everyone even if you stick to the rules and give out refreshment vouchers etc. The bottom line is some people are never happy and will use highly emotive language when things go wrong even if they ARE being looked after perfectly well. Of course there are real, albeit rare cases of actual abandonment and poor treatment but whenever I see these words thrown around by the media I take them with a huge load of salt as I have been on the receiving end of such language.

I've dealt with a lot of airlines in my career and not one has ever "abandoned" passengers or "treated them like cattle" in irregular operations. Food and drink vouchers have always been given out, information has been given as soon as it's known, hotels have always been provided and rebooking have always taken place, but still I've lost count of the times I've been accused of not helping someone simply because the only thing I can do for them isn't what they want.

I have never once lied to a passenger either. If the flight is delayed because of something the airline did, I'll tell them and tell them exactly what they should be entitled to and how to claim. Likewise, if it's outside our control then I tell them that as well, but around 7 times out of 10 that is treated with suspicion and I'm called a liar for even trying to suggest that hurricane force winds, nationwide ATC failure or an emergency landing closing the runway are not the real reason for a flight cancellation. It's an uphill battle and the public seem to automatically jump to the conclusion they are being lied to.

The recent ATC failure at LHR is a good example. I was stuck trying to get back to the UK. I was given plenty of information by the airline I was on. I was delayed nearly 4 hours but I won't even attempt to claim as I know its not their fault. Of course a lot of people on my flight decided it was their fault and that they were being lied to and mistreated, so got very vocal with the staff.

Many friends and colleagues of mine were working hard at the airports to sort people. With thousands of Pre-Christmas travellers affected, it took a long time to do so. My colleagues spent hours working out solutions and finding hotels, trying to get the most up to date information, out only for some passengers to then turn straight to the TV cameras and come out with the usual "No information, total disgrace, no one can help us, too long a wait, total chaos, staff are useless, won't tell us the truth" etc etc etc.
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Old 23rd Jan 2015, 18:12
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The regulations are useless! I was delayed 3 hours on a flight to Sydney with Thai Airways after which they cancelled the flight entirely suggesting an alternative that would put me in Sydney 36 hours late. I suggested I just come back tomorrow and go down on the same flight putting me there only 24 hours late. They agreed but then refused any assistance with travel, taxi, hotel etc.
Upon arriving back into Europe engaging in correspondance regarding compensation they refused any! No arguements, just NO!
What use are regulations that are not enforced?
Well Mr Thai Airways, I told you then and I still mean it....I will never be on any of your aircraft EVER again!
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Old 23rd Jan 2015, 18:46
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I suggested I just come back tomorrow and go down on the same flight putting me there only 24 hours late.
Basically because, though you thought you were helping, by coming up with your own solution you released them of any obligations
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Old 24th Jan 2015, 07:23
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Last night ITV presented Martin Lewis's Money Show. A topic included EC261/2004. The way it was presented was very childish. He stood in a shopping centre with a gathered audience shouting answers to whether one can claim for various incidents or not. This included undercarriage problems to an aircraft hitting geese. As a serious topic this could have been presented in a more 'adult' way for better effect. Still this is his way of presenting his programme. No wonder he suffered 'commuter rage' at Waterloo the other day!
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Old 24th Jan 2015, 13:11
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Thread drift

I'm sad to hear about the trivilisation of the topic but not surprised - it is how TV 'does' things these days. I have seen so many topics 'sexed up' with expensive locations, silly music and even the presenter in a naff costume. The one thing that young TV producers are scared of is doing something 'straight to camera'. They cannot tolerate the idea of a person who is educated in the subject, calmly explaining the background to the matter and how it is dealt with. Whether it is '261' or how a reciprocating engine works. It's the reason I watch less factual television each year.
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Old 25th Jan 2015, 07:35
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The airlines are their own worst enemies. Any half competent airline will have plans for most eventualities.
Dig out the plan and put it in place.
In that plan will be lots of stuff about comms with customers.

Needless to say, many get the comms wrong. That is sheer basic incompetence, which is why they end up losing most of their cases in the Small Claims Court in the UK.
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Old 25th Jan 2015, 07:58
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If we're talking "thread drift" then EC261 is THE classic case.
It started out with the best of intentions to force airlines to face the true costs of overbooking by forcing them to compensate distressed passengers adequately.
It's now drift well out of the galaxy of Common Sense and into a void where ANY delay caused by virtually ANYTHING is ground for compensation.
We buy cars, fridges, TVs and a myriad of complex mechanical devices, fully aware that there's a likelihood of their failing at some time in the near or distant future.
Yet when we book a ticket, we expect an airline to have a reserve aircraft and reserve crew ready for every eventuality, whether at its home base or downline.

Sometimes it makes sense to revisit legislation to make sure that it mirrors the original intent....
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Old 25th Jan 2015, 08:09
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RevMan,
There is a redraft in play, which would solve many of the problems. However it's been put on the back burner due to disagreement over the status of a bit of rock on the bottom of one member state.

So, expect nothing to happen until that little political disagreement is resolved. And don't blame the EU, the EC, the parliament or Brussels for this one.
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Old 28th Jan 2015, 21:55
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Problem solved

Folks,

Thanks for responding to my post, and please accept my apologies for not coming back to you all sooner. Since last week, my friend's case has been resolved after the airline made an offer of settlement.
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Old 8th Feb 2015, 01:52
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Interesting development... Airlines defy Supreme Court and refuse to pay 50m delay compensation to holidaymakers - News & Advice - Travel - The Independent
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Old 8th Feb 2015, 10:27
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As I mentioned earlier, the regulation does not define "extraordinary circumstances". This has been left to the courts which have offered varying interpretations. Only now is the interpretation before the highest European court.

When the regulation was being drafted everyone, the Commussion; the Parliament; and the airlines were all in agreement that nothing in the regulation should compromise flight safety. I.e. An airline should not be encouraged to operate even a little unsafely, to avoid a significant compensation claim. Particularly when the compensation amount has no relation to the fare paid.

An airline with a 189 seat aircraf operating an intra-EU sectort could be liable for 47,000, a long haul 777-300ER with 458 seats sees almost 275,000. For many flights these compensation amounts exceeds significantly the fares paid. And in many cases it isn't a single flight that would be delayed, but a series of flights.

So lacking a clear and consistent definition of extraordinary circumstances I can fully understand why some airlines are waiting to see the ECJs final interpretation. I personally doubt that the ECJ's ruling will please them but they are not acting inappropriately by waiting for it.
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