Extraordinary Circumstances

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Extraordinary Circumstances Explained

So you have seen or received a notification that for a delayed, cancelled or re-routed flight, you may be eligible to claim compensation. However the airline has told you, or you have concerns that, the eligibility of your claim is in question due to the term "Extraordinary Circumstances".

Here at Flight Delays, we are going to explain exactly what constitutes an "Extraordinary Circumstance", which in other words, will prevent you from bringing a claim against an airline for compensation.

An extraordinary circumstance is defined as something that is:

  • Not inherent in the normal activity of the airline, and
  • Outside the control of the airline.

Download Our Extraordinary Circumstances Infographic

For your convenience, we have summarised the most common defences to a compensation claim in our handy infographic, which you can download as a PDF below.

Extraordinary Circumstances Infographic

Adverse Weather Conditions / Natural Disaster

The airline may use poor weather conditions as the reason to avoid paying out a claim. The airline must prove that the weather conditions prevented your flight from operating. Adverse weather conditions include, but are not limited to:-

  • Snow;
  • Icy Conditions;
  • Severe Temperatures;
  • Fog / Mist (Poor visibility);
  • Extreme Turbulence;
  • Hailstones;
  • Thunderstorms;
  • Airport Flooding.
  • Earthquake
  • Tsunami
  • Volcanic Ash

If you have been delayed or experienced a cancellation because the aircraft due to operate your flight was affected by adverse weather conditions, it will be much more difficult attempting to claim compensation because, under EU Regulation 261/2004, they will likely respond with an "EC" caused the issue with the flight.

Military or Political Unrest / War

Any unforeseen disruption to the normal operation of departures / arrivals caused by war, civil war or anything defined as military / political instability will be classed as an "EC". Travel is generally also not recommended during times of struggle in other countries. This can also cause problems sourcing aircraft fuel in the affected country, if fuel is limited without pre-notification, this will also be defined as an "EC".

Terrorism or Sabotage

If an act of crime, sabotage or terrorism impacts the normal operation of a flight or airport, you will be unable to claim compensation for the flight(s) affected.

Security Issues

Security issues are a major concern at all airports, and should one arise, it is unlikely you will be able to claim compensation through EU regulation 261/2004 in the event of delays or cancellations arising. Security concerns are listed as, but not limited to :-

  • Closure of an airport where the plane is due to depart or arrive as a consequence of security concerns;
  • Discovery of an explosive (bomb) or a bomb scare on-board aircraft or within the airport complex;
  • Acts of terrorism such hi-jacking the aircraft;
  • The need to delay the plane to remove suspicious or dangerous luggage;
  • The need to delay or divert the aircraft to remove an unruly passenger.

Essentially, any external security influence that is not within the control of the airline, is defined as an extraordinary circumstance.

Airport Closure

Exactly as it says on the tin, if the departure or arrival airport is closed for any reason (outside of security and meteorological concerns) then this will be considered as an "EC".

Medical Emergency

In the event a passenger or crew member falls seriously ill or dies in-flight, any diversions or delays will be defined as an extraordinary circumstance for the purpose of regulation 261/2004.

Hidden Manufacturing Defect

This is not to be confused with routine technical defects with the aircraft. There is no official definition as to what constitutes a ‘hidden manufacturing defect’; however airlines may argue this whenever a component fails prematurely. For the airline to succeed with this defence they need to provide evidence from the manufacturer to show that the fault was due to a ‘hidden manufacturing defect’. Caution is required here because airlines may try to pass off routine technical faults as ‘hidden manufacturing defects’.

Air Traffic Control Decisions

If air traffic management decide to suspend or restrict flight operations at the airport of departure or arrival for the delayed / cancelled flights, or air space through which the air carrier is required to operate the flight is blocked, you will be unable to claim compensation. There may be exceptions, e.g. where routine delays due to ATC decisions (e.g. runway congestion) cause a nominal delay that then causes you to miss a connecting flight. In this situation you may argue that the airline have failed to take ‘reasonable measures’ by allocating you with connecting flights that are too close.

Lightning Strikes

If your flight was delayed due to a technical fault, or investigation into a possible technical fault, as a result of a bird strike on a previous flight, it is possible that you may be able to bring a claim for compensation. Historically the courts would side with the airlines when this happens; however we have recently seen success in claims against airlines where lightning strikes have been the cause of delay, Judges having held that this is ‘inherent in the normal activity of the airline’. For more information on the successful case, you can read the article here. If your delay was caused by a lightning strike, we advise that you submit your claim as there is a reasonable chance it will be successful in light of recent case victories.

Bird Strikes

If your flight was delayed due to a technical fault, or investigation into a possible technical fault, as a result of a bird strike on a previous flight, it is possible that you may be able to bring a claim for compensation. Historically the courts would side with the airlines when this happens; however we have recently seen success in claims against airlines where bird strikes have been the cause of delay, Judges having held that this is ‘inherent in the normal activity of the airline’. For more information on the successful case, you can read the article here. If your delay was caused by a bird strike, we advise that you submit your claim as there is a good chance it will be successful in light of recent case victories.

Pilot Sickness

If your flight was delayed due to a pilot falling sick at late notice is possible that you may be able to bring a claim for compensation. The courts are still unsure how to deal with these claims; however in recent court cases Judges have held that this is ‘inherent in the normal activity of the airline’. For more information on the successful case, you can read the article here. If your delay was caused by pilot sickness, we advise that you submit your claim as there is a good chance it will be successful in light of recent case victories.

Circumstances That Aren't so Extraordinary

Technical Issues

Any technical issue that arises as part of the normal operation of the aircraft are usually assumed to be as a result of the air carrier has failed to properly monitor or mantain systems and equipment in accordance with the required maintenance program.

Technical issues found during standard maintenance where the part in question was scheduled to be checked.

Staffing Issues

If staff do not turn up for work, are ill, or the aircraft received poor operational planning resulting in under-staffing causing delays or cancellation, then you are likely to be eligible for compensation. There is, however, still some uncertainty as to whether a flight delayed due to ‘pilot sickness’ amounts to a valid defence.

Missing Flight Documentation

Where the air carrier has failed to prepare the necessary flight documentation to operate the flight (if missing documentation was within the airlines control).

SAFA Inspections

Where a SAFA (Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft) inspection reveals technical issues requiring immediate assessment or repair.

Do I Qualify?

With the hundreds of delays that occur every day, it is difficult to understand or know whether any of the extraordinary circumstances listed could impact your claim. Unless you were delayed due to Volcanic Activity or other extreme natural disaster, or you know that the weather conditions were extremely poor (snow, ice, fog) it is worth submitting a claim to see if you are eligible for compensation. The process is hassle free and simple and it will only take you a few minutes to submit your details, we can then check your claim against weather conditions and other events to let you know if you are eligible.

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