Supreme Court rules in favor of passengers in British Airways flight delay case, potentially benefiting thousands

Passengers have been granted the right to receive compensation for flight cancellations due to airline staff illness, as ruled by the UK’s highest court on Wednesday.

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court stated that this ruling could potentially impact “tens of thousands” of claims made every year. The case was brought against British Airways (BA) by a couple whose flight from London to Milan was cancelled due to the pilot being sick and no replacement being available.

The issue at hand was whether or not this situation could be considered an “extraordinary circumstance” which would exempt the airline from paying compensation. BA argued that it was out of their control and could not be avoided, but the Supreme Court disagreed, stating that staff illness is not an extraordinary circumstance.

The court’s decision read, “These are all inherent in the carrier’s activity and operations and if, for whatever reason, they are unable to attend for work as a result of something going awry during those rest periods, whether it is their fault or not, that failure to attend is not an extraordinary circumstance.”

The question of when or who fell ill was deemed irrelevant by the court, as they stated that crew members are an “inherent part of the airline’s operation” even when off duty. They also noted that the responsibility to ensure proper rest during stopovers falls on the captain and other cabin crew, as they have numerous obligations to both their employers and the public.

The couple who initiated the case against BA, Kenneth and Linda Lipton, arrived two and a half hours late to their destination due to the cancelled flight. The UK airline had refused to pay the couple £220 in compensation for the delay. After two courts initially upheld BA’s decision, the Court of Appeal ruled in the couple’s favor, leading to the airline’s appeal to the Supreme Court.

In a statement, the couple’s law firm, Irwin Mitchell, said, “Their insistence to continue this battle to the highest court in the land has now met with the correct conclusion and our significantly smaller but no less wily team has succeeded against all odds.”

A spokesperson for BA expressed disappointment with the decision but stated that they respect the judgment of the court. This ruling sets a precedent for future cases involving flight cancellations due to staff illness, ensuring that passengers are entitled to compensation for such inconveniences.

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