The European Court of Justice has ruled that airlines must offer passengers compensation for delays and cancellations caused by ‘wildcat’ strikes.

The ruling by the highest court in the EU means passengers can claim for compensation under regulation 261/2004 if airline staff suddenly strike by calling out sick en masse.

The verdict is in relation to the German case of Helga Krusemann and Others v TUIfly GmbH. The claimants took the case to court after TUIfly staff placed themselves on sick leave for a week in October 2016 following a restructuring announcement from the company.

Previously, cancellations and delays as a result of such strikes were not specifically mentioned in the regulation, but judges found such circumstances should not be considered ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

Flight delay compensation law firm Bott and Co said the ruling opens the floodgates for tens of millions of pounds’ worth of compensation to be paid out in future.

Coby Benson, solicitor at Bott and Co, commented: “Airlines have argued for a long time that staff strikes are an extraordinary circumstance. This judgement from the European Court is the latest in a long line of cases that confirms airlines are often obliged to provide monetary compensation of up to £350 to passengers who find their travel plans severely disrupted at the last minute.”

A spokesperson for the UK Civil Aviation Authority said: “The UK Civil Aviation Authority notes the ruling by the European Court of Justice and welcomes the clarity it provides to consumers who are impacted by wildcat strikes. 

“Although wildcat strikes are illegal in the United Kingdom, British passengers travelling abroad may have experienced disruption as a result of such action. This ruling means that any passenger who has been impacted by wildcat strike action can pursue a claim for compensation under EU261. This also means that any passenger who feels that a previous claim was refused on the basis of the disruption being as a result of wildcat strike action could now go back to their airline and request their claim is reviewed.”

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