CAA Intervenes in Flight Delay Claim against Virgin Atlantic
The Civil Aviation Authority has intervened to resolve a flight delay claim against Virgin Atlantic on behalf of a couple who lost a day of their Caribbean holiday.
In October 2012, Martin Offer and his partner were intending to fly to Saint Lucia for a wonderful Caribbean holiday. However, due to a fault being detected in a fire detector on their Virgin Atlantic flight, the couple´s departure from Heathrow was delayed by twenty-four hours while a replacement part was ordered and installed.
After returning to the UK, Martin made a flight delay claim against Virgin Atlantic as he believed he was entitled to do under EU regulation 261/2004. The airline rejected Martin´s claim on the grounds that the fault in the fire detector was an “exceptional circumstance”, and this meant that the company was excused from paying delayed flight compensation.
Martin appealed his flight delay claim against Virgin Atlantic Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) – the UK´s flight regulator. The CAA discovered that fault in the fire detector had originally been identified three days previously; but, due to the high cost of having a replacement part installed in the United States, Virgin Atlantic had waited until the plane returned to the UK to deal with the problem.
The timing of the CAA´s discovery coincided with new guidelines regarding the interpretation of EU regulation 261/2004 that had been agreed in Luxembourg. The new guidelines said that technical problems attributable to an airline´s failure to maintain its aircraft adequately should not be considered as “exceptional circumstances”.
The CAA said that the delay at Heathrow Airport was unnecessary because it could reasonably be expected for Virgin Atlantic to have a distribution network for spare parts for such circumstances. The CAA found that the airline had acted negligently and upheld Martin´s flight delay claim against Virgin Atlantic – ordering the airline to pay Martin and his partner €1,200 compensation.