Huzar v – truly “extraordinary”?

The recent success of Mr. Huzar against in the Court of Appeal has attracted a good deal of publicity. Does this case create new law though and what will its implications be?

Ron Huzar was a passenger on a Jet2 flight in 2011. As a result of a wiring defect, he was delayed for 27 hours. He subsequently sought compensation under EC Regulation 261/2004. Jet2 defended his claim on the basis that the technical problem constituted “extraordinary circumstances”. Both parties accepted that the defect was both unforeseen and unforeseeable.

The Court of Appeal rejected the argument that the wiring defect amounted to extraordinary circumstances. Noting that difficult technical problems arose as a matter of course in the ordinary operation of an airline, the Court found that whether these were foreseeable or not, they were all inherent in that normal operation and were part of the wear and tear. To be extraordinary, the circumstances needed to be out of the ordinary.

Jet2 are planning to appeal to the Supreme Court. Their difficulty in succeeding lies with the existing judgments of the European Court of Justice which are binding on the UK courts. The decision of the Court of Appeal would appear to be consistent with those of the ECJ. It may well be that the airline industry will ultimately have to live with the position that most technical problems will not constitute extraordinary circumstances.

Save for those passenger claims which have already been rejected by the courts (as opposed to the airline) and which are out of time for an appeal, the airlines also face the prospect of up to 6 years of historic claims arising from delay and cancellation caused by technical problems. The law may not be new but the pill is a bitter and expensive one nonetheless.

For further advice please contact Claire Ingleby at mb LAW, e-mail

Please note this information is for general guidance only and is not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice.

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