UK Judge rules that lightning strikes are not included in the list of “extraordinary circumstances” that airline companies can use to defend themselves against claims for flight delay compensation from passengers. This ruling is allegedly set to benefit more than 50,000 passengers in the UK who have experienced flight delays. Her Honour Judge Melissa Clarke awarded passengers Julie Lee and Michael Evans passenger compensation of €600 each for a flight delay of five hours by Monarch Airlines Ltd.
Court battles caused due to ambiguity in EU regulation
A European Flight Delay Regulation EC 261/2004 states that passengers in the past six years can claim up to €600 of flight delay compensation if the flight has been delayed by three hours or more, if the delay was “not caused by extraordinary circumstances”. However, the Regulation does not make any attempt to give a list of extraordinary circumstances that can be used as a viable defence by airline companies, which is why there are court battles between delayed passenger and airline companies.
Lightning is not a danger to flight passengers
Planes are designed to behave like Faraday cages when it is in flight. That means when it is struck by lightning mid-flight, it does not harm the passengers in any way. That is why most of the aeroplanes that are hit by lightning manage to arrive at their destination safely and on time. It was argued that lightning is not considered to be an extraordinary event as it is an everyday part of the airline company’s operation.
Delays due to lightning occur once the plane lands
Lightning is not considered to be harmful to flight passengers when the plane is in mid-air. But once the plane lands, it needs to be subjected to a series of mandatory safety checks to ensure that the equipment is working properly so that it is capable of transporting the next group of passengers without any problems. If the airline company does not happen to have a relief aeroplane on stand-by to make sure that the passengers on subsequent flights do not suffer a delay, then the passengers will be forced to wait until all the security procedures are completed.
Decision of the judge is not legally binding
The ruling that lightning cannot be considered to be an “extraordinary circumstance” has led to the winning of the case in favour of the passengers, Julie Lee and Michael Evans. But it is not legally binding, which means that the other courts are not required to follow the ruling. However, the ruling will be a very persuasive argument for future cases in Welsh and English courts which involves arguments related to the issue of lightning strikes causing flight delays. It is estimated that the ruling has the potential to help around 54,000 passengers who have suffered flight delays due to lightning strikes.