British Airways’ Cityflyer operation has lost an appeal against a compensation claim brought after a flight was cancelled owing to pilot illness.

The UK Supreme Court made the ruling on 10 July.

It concerned the cancellation of a Milan Linate-London City flight in January 2018, which was due to be operated by Cityflyer.

But the service was cancelled because a pilot did not report for work, owing to being unwell, and a replacement pilot could not be found.

Two passengers booked on the flight were subsequently rebooked on a service which arrived just over 2h 30min later than the original, and they pursued compensation under European Union regulations.

Cityflyer had argued that the cancellation was due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’, which would relieve the airline of compensation obligations.

BA CItyflyer-c-Stuart Bailey via British Airways

Source: Stuart Bailey via British Airways

Cityflyer had been due to operate the service from Milan to London City in 2018

The passengers’ case was originally dismissed at county court level, but successfully appealed, and Cityflyer then appealed to the Supreme Court.

“Although the sum at stake is small, the decision has the potential to affect tens of thousands of claims which are made annually under the applicable legislation,” the court says.

Having settled the issue as to which laws applied to the case, given that the UK was in the process of leaving the EU at the time, the court has unanimously dismissed the appeal.

It rules that the pilot’s non-attendance through illness was “an inherent part” of Cityflyer’s activity as an airline, and “cannot be categorised as extraordinary”.

“Staff illness is commonplace for any business,” it adds. “Just as the wear and tear of an aircraft’s physical components is considered an inherent part of an air carrier’s activity, so too is managing illness of staff.”