What are the legal ramifications of todays’ terrorist scare? Aviation law experts from “The Times” legal blog take a look at a difficult area. Worse than that, the legal arena’s a mess.

What are the legal ramifications of todays' terrorist scare? Aviation law experts from "The Times" legal blog take a look at a difficult area. Worse than that, the legal arena's a mess. 2

“It’s a complete mess,” Peter Thorne, an aviation lawyer at Norton Rose, said — and he wasn’t referring to the chaos at Heathrow and Stansted.

Rather, it is the multitude of complex losses arising out of today’s terrorist scare that will give rise to a baffling series of claims and counter-claims.

John Balfour of Clyde & Co. agreed, suggesting today’s crippled schedule would expose the problems associated with a recent European Commission regulation implemented in the UK through the Civil Aviation (Denied Boarding Compensation and Assistance) Regulations 2005.

As Balfour explained, there was concern when the regulations came into effect about the burdens placed on carriers in the event of a major delay, in some cases amounting to €600 per passenger on top of the cost of compensation for the flight.

However, this would not apply in the case of extraordinary circumstances outside of the control of the airlines, such as that which occurred today. Even so, airlines might have to pay for the “care” of delayed passengers including hotel accommodation and refreshments.

The problem is that those hotels might not be available or, indeed, be irrelevant if replacement flights were not going to be provided (which is probably going to be the case with budget airlines).

Julian Chamberlayne of Stewarts said that ordinary passengers should not raise their hopes about the level of compensation they may receive, although there are no doubt some litigious-minded folk who will want to pursue it. One conceivable question is just how “extraordinary” today’s events were. After all, no one has actually suggested that an attack was planned for today. The cancellations were due merely to additional precautionary measures and, therefore, perhaps, in the hands of the airlines and airports.

All of that is quite apart from the costs of re-routed flights. “It’s going to be intriguing to see how it all works out,” Mr Chamberlayne said.

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