THOMSON
Holidays could be forced to pay up to £1 million in damages to customers after
a Britannia Airways crash in northern Spain four years ago.

At Cardiff
County Court Judge Graham Jones ruled Thomson customers on board a Britannia
Airways flight, which crashed while landing in stormy weather at Gerona Airport
in 1999, can claim damages for psychological trauma from the operator.

Under
current laws, air passengers are unable to claim for mental anguish, unlike
coach and rail customers, but Judge Jones ruled Thomson’s terms and conditions
did not limit the operator’s liability.

He said
Thomson is liable to pay compensation of up to £85,000 each to 72 passengers
without the need for them to demonstrate Britannia was negligent.

He said Thomson was “attempting to argue the unarguable”
by using the small print in its terms and conditions to hide behind the 1929
Warsaw Convention which only allows claims for physical injuries.

A Thomson
spokeswoman said the operator was disappointed with the ruling but it had
closed the loophole in its terms and conditions after the accident.

Hugh James
Solicitors partner and travel lawyer Mark Harvey said: “This demonstrates how
unfair the law is. Had Thomson drafted its terms and conditions beforehand its
customers would not have been able to claim at all.”

There were
235 passengers and crew on board Britannia flight BY226A that left Cardiff
International Airport for Spain on September 14 1999.

Sunvil
Holidays managing director Noel Josephides described the ruling as the
“ultimate nonsense” and “grossly unfair”.

“If
passengers hadn’t booked their holiday through a tour operator, they wouldn’t
get anything. This is just a charter to enable passengers to hold the operators
responsible for everything.”

He said
Sunvil, and most operators, had now altered the wording in their booking conditions.