• British Airways refused to pay a couple £220 compensation for a flight delay 

Airlines could face forking out millions in compensation to customers following a Supreme Court ruling crew sickness is not 'an extraordinary circumstance'.

Kenneth and Linda Lipton took British Airways to court after their flight from Milan landed in London two and a half hours late.

Their original flight was cancelled due to a pilot becoming unwell shortly before the plane was set to jet off in January 2018.

The airline refused to hand over £220 compensation to the couple for the delay, stating the pilot's illness was an unavoidable 'extraordinary circumstance'.

The Supreme Court has now ruled in their favour, adding that although the sum was small, 'the decision has the potential to affect tens of thousands of claims'.

Travellers who have had their claims rejected in the last six years in England and Wales can now resubmit claims for compensation.

Passengers in Scotland can do so if their claim happened in the past five years. 

Two courts previously supported the company's decision, but after the Court of Appeal ruled in the couple's favour the case was taken to the highest court in the land.

On Wednesday, five Supreme Court justices unanimously dismissed the company's appeal.

In their judgement, the judges also highlighted the intention of Regulation 261 to protect flyers rights and 'to ensure a high level of protection for consumers'.

The Supreme Court said it 'does not matter' when the pilot fell ill, as the crew member remained an 'inherent part of the airline's operation' even when not on duty.

They added: 'If the pilot drinks so as to be unfit to report for work and the flight is cancelled, then the reason for the cancellation is inherent in the airline's activity and operations.

'The same is also true of the need for the captain and other cabin crew to ensure that they are properly rested during stopovers.

'They have numerous obligations both to their employers and to the public during those periods.'

They also maintained staff sickness could not 'be categorised as extraordinary', as it's meaning implies 'something out of the ordinary' - to which they said workers falling ill is not.

They added: '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.'

Coby Benson, a solicitor at Bott and Co told The Independent:  'This decision is an important step forward in protecting air passengers' rights.

'Airlines must now take their responsibilities seriously and ensure they are adequately staffed to avoid such disruptions, and if such disruptions occur, compensate passengers appropriately.' 

MailOnline has approached British Airways and Airlines UK for comment.

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2024-07-10T13:06:44Z dg43tfdfdgfd