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Two legal victories by UK passengers against EasyJet and Thomas Cook have shown that the new EU compensation rules for cancelled flights or significant delays can sometimes be enforced.
The cases were brought in the small claims division of the county court, in Oxford, where Thomas Cook lost despite being represented by a barrister, and in Camarthen, where EasyJet failed to contest the action. Appeals are unlikely because decisions in the small claims division do not create a precedent that can be brought to the attention of judges in future litigation.
Under the EU rules introduced in February last year, which apply to both scheduled and chartered flights, passengers turned away from an overbooked flight are entitled to much larger compensation.
In delays of two to four hours, you should be eligible for free meals and refreshments, and two free phone calls, emails or faxes. If you suffer a five-hour delay, you will also be entitled to a full refund, which must be paid within seven days; you may be entitled to free overnight hotel accommodation; and if the delay happens abroad, you may also be eligible for an alternative free flight home, if this is appropriate.
In the event of cancellations, passengers must be given a leaflet outlining their rights and the amounts of compensation due. If the delay is more than two hours, you will be entitled to 250€.
If you are refused boarding because of an overbooking, compensation should be paid by the airline immediately. In the event of a cancellation, passengers have to contact the airline for compensation.
From our March 2006 newsletter