UK flag carrier pins faith in European rules covering ‘extraordinary circumstances’

British Airways is confident that it will escape having to make massive compensation pay-outs to passengers affected by industrial action last week because the disruption was the result of “extraordinary circumstances”.

The UK flag carrier estimates that over 100,000 passengers were affected by the unofficial industrial action on 15 August by around 1,000 ground staff in sympathy with staff sacked from airline caterer Gate Gourmet. BA says most affected passengers were booked on to other services, either with other carriers or on later dates, but adds that some tickets were cancelled.

BA will deal with each affected passenger’s expenses on a case-by-case basis, it says, with no set compensation level set. The airline believes it is not bound by the new pan-European rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of cancellation of flights that came into force in February. “Section 5.3 [of the European regulation] exempts us in the case of extraordinary circumstances,” the airline says.

A senior source at a leading aviation law firm familiar with the regulation says a “recital” or preamble to the legal text includes a clause that specifically mentions striking staff as an example of extraordinary circumstances that could “provide dissent to the obligation to pay for cancelled flights”. BA still has the obligation to reroute passengers and provide assistance, but would probably avoid having to pay compensation on top, the source adds. “It’s not 100% clear, as the reference to strikes is not in the operative text, but recitals are important in European law as they provide guidance for judges,” the legal source says.


Source: Flight International