A judge has ruled that airline Jet2 can no longer continue to stall in paying out compensation to a passenger whose flight was delayed by seven hours, paving the way for thousands of other claims.

Kim Allen won her compensation test case after her delayed flight from Manchester to Malaga on 26th March 2012. She won €400 (£291).

Jet2 wanted to put the ruling on hold until a similar case in the Netherlands concluded. The judge denied the request, stating that “justice delayed is justice denied”.

Four other UK airlines have also applied to delay compensation payments: Thomas Cook, Ryanair, Flybe and Wizz Air.

Bott & Co, the law firm dealing with Allen’s claim, says it currently has around 20,000 ‘live’ passenger cases, which amount to a combined total of one year and seven months waiting to board delayed flights.

You can use its flight compensation claims checker to see if you’re eligible for compensation.

There is a possible sting to this ruling, however. If more delay claims lead to payouts, it could result in fare rises to cover increased compensation costs.

Your rights

According to a 2004 European regulation, airlines are obliged, in some cases, to pay compensation to passengers for cancellations and delays if they aren’t due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

Another 2009 ruling certified that passengers should be treated as if their flight was cancelled if it’s delayed by more than three hours.  

So if you do experience this length of delay, contact the airline first. The sooner you do so, the more likely it is that your claim will be successful. Provide as much evidence as possible including flight times, dates, booking references and copies of receipts.

[Related story: How to pay less for travel insurance and money]

When you can get compensation

You may get compensation if your delay was for more than two hours and you were travelling more than 932 miles.

Current compensation breaks down like this:

  • €250 (£182) for inter-EU flights of 930 miles or less (eg London-Paris);
  • €400 (£291) for flights between 930 and 1,860 miles (eg London-Istanbul);
  • €600 (£437) for longer flights (eg London-New York)

There is also the option not to travel and get a refund on your ticket cost if the delay is over five hours and the flight isn’t cancelled.

[Related story: Travel insurance warning to over-50s]

When you can’t get compensation

You’re not entitled to compensation if the delay was caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’ that are beyond the airline’s control. These include security risks, political instability and hazardous weather.

However, you’re still entitled to meals, refreshments, accommodation and hotel transfers depending on the length of your flight and delay.

The airline will only cover you for reasonable expenses (so take it easy on the lobster dinners) and you need receipts for your spending.

Taking it further

If you feel that the airline isn’t being entirely honest about the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ it faced, you can either challenge it or take your case to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) which will help you if your claim is valid.

And if all of this fails, you can present your case to the county court.

The European Commission has launched an app for passengers travelling within the EU which tells you your rights for all modes of transport. It’s available on iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7.

Compare credit cards that are free to use abroad