Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Am I really out of time for claiming on delayed flight?


Q. I have written to BA trying to claim for a delay in November 2006 from Gatwick to Madeira. They have written back to say as flight was more than 6 years ago I am now "out of time for pursuing a compensation claim". But I understood the EU ruling related to flights back to February 2005?

Carol Frost

A. The airline is right. EU261, the legislation on passengers' rights, took effect in February 2005. Originally compensation was payable only for overbooking and cancellations, not delays. But case law established that delays over three hours counted as cancellations, entitling the passenger to between €250 and €600 (depending on the length of the flight) unless the airline could claim "extraordinary circumstances" led to the plane being late.

Retrospective claims are permitted, much to the fury of the airlines. But they are governed by the statute of limitations: six years in England and Wales, five years in Scotland. So, maddeningly, you miss the cut by a few months.

Incidentally, Thomson Airways claims its obligation extends back only two years, though there is dispute about its legal argument.

For anyone with a valid claim on the Gatwick-Funchal route, or any other service that was operated by GB Airways on behalf of BA, the appropriate route is to claim from easyJet, which bought GB and assumed its legal responsibilities at the same time.

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