A retired teacher has won a payout from holiday giant Thomas Cook in a landmark European legal ruling after he and his wife waited 22 hours for a flight home.
Jeff Halsall, 58, became one of the first passengers in the UK to be awarded damages from a tour operator for a delay after he successfully sued the firm for the airfare of £680.
His court victory followed a European Court ruling last October and could now pave the way for thousands of holidaymakers to claim compensation if they face over a three hour wait for their flights.
Mr Halsall took Thomas Cook to court after waiting 22 hours for a return flight from Tenerife to East Midlands Airport in October 2009.
A judge initially rejected the legal claim after Thomas Cook said the delay was due to an ‘exceptional circumstance’ beyond its control.
But Mr Halsall appealed against the decision after learning of new European legislation which allows people to claim between £200 and £480 compensation for delays over three hours in EU countries.
At Stoke-on-Trent County Court on Monday Mr Halsall and his wife Joyce, 57, were awarded 800 euros (£640) after a judge heard their flight was postponed due to a mechanical fault.
Under the new rules, passengers can make a successful compensation claim if the delay is the fault of the airline.
Mr Halsall, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs., encouraged other passengers who had suffered long delays to check whether they had a claim for compensation.
He said: “Our claim has been going on for years and we are just glad it is finally sorted.
“There were hundreds of passengers on our flight and most of those people won’t know that they have the right to make this claim.
“It doesn’t matter how much people pay for their flight, everyone is entitled to this.
“Airlines won’t tell people of their rights because they don’t want to pay out.
“People probably think they have to go to court to do this but they don’t, all they need to do is write to their airline.”
District Judge Peter Rank said: “This must have been very upsetting for Mr and Mrs Halsall.
“It was a most unpleasant experience and it must have been very frustrating.”
Thomas Cook today apologised to the Halsalls.
A spokesman said: “Thomas Cook has been ordered to pay Mr Halsall 800 euros by the court.”
Claims can be made on all EU flights which have departed since February 17, 2005.