PHOTO: Mother and baby at an airport. (photo via Flickr/Lars Plougmann)
Babies don't take up much space on a plane but they're still passengers nonetheless. Using that logic, a Liverpool County Court judge has ruled in favor of the youngest air travelers.
According to the Telegraph, the court has sided with a father who made a flight delay compensation claim on behalf of his six-month-old daughter who sat on his knee during a nine-hour flight delay back in December 2015.
Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair originally agreed to pay compensation to the man but refused to do the same for his infant child, arguing that babies are only subject to a $25 infant fee.
"Many passengers in many situations (for example, on buses and trains) travel without having a seat," said Judge Pearce via the Telegraph. "They are nonetheless passengers for that, and I can see no justification for restricting the meaning of the word in this one situation to exclude those without their own seat."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ryanair was up in arms over the judge's decision and has since threatened to raise the infant fee to $50 to cover future compensation claims.
"It is absurd that infants (under two years of age), who do not pay an air fare or occupy a seat, can now apply for up to €250 ($265) in 'compensation' for a flight delay, when their accompanying adults will already have been compensated," a spokesman for the airline told the Telegraph.
"In this case, the two parents and a sister have already received €1,200 ($1,275) in compensation, which is almost four times the three one-way airfares they paid of just £104 ($129), the spokesman added. "This is compo culture gone mad."
Given the significance of the ruling, which would set a precedent for future passengers, Ryanair plans to appeal the decision. According to the Sun, the airline will have to pay out $425 in compensation if its appeal falls short.
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"The history of this regulation has been legal challenge after legal challenge from the airline industry and we are pleased the court has provided another pro-passenger decision," said flight delay legal expert Kevin Clarke, who represented the family.
"We have always considered this to be a straightforward argument and we welcome this judgment from the court," Clarke told the Telegraph.
Looking ahead, the ruling could be worth as much as $12.4 million annually for delayed air travelers.
Under European Union (EU) rules, passengers are entitled to compensation if their flight is delayed by more than two hours and the airline is at fault. Passengers delayed more than four hours can claim a maximum of $637 in compensation.