A leading UK flight compensation law firm has criticised airlines for suggesting EU flight delay rules have created a ‘compensation culture.’

Wilmslow-based Bott & Co branded the remarks as ‘shameful’, arguing that the EU261 regulations are there to protect consumers and hold airlines to account for poor customer care and over-stretched schedules.

The firm disputed claims by the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK in the Law Society Gazette that passengers are less likely to take out travel insurance because they believe airlines are responsible due to the regulations, saying these claims are completely unfounded.

Only around 5% of passengers are aware of their right to claim under EU261 and it is unlikely they would neglect taking insurance because of it, the law firm claims.

Coby Benson, technical legal manager at Bott & Co’s aviation team, said: “Insurance policies often only pay-out when a delay is in excess of 24 hours, which is an extremely rare occurrence. Furthermore, It’s unlikely that passengers were previously taking out travel insurance simply to cover their loss in the event of a delay, people’s primary concern is invariably medical and baggage cover.

“If every single person in the world claimed for compensation under the regulation when they’re entitled to it, then the cost added to each ticket would be just £2-3 per passenger.

“In reality though, very few people are aware of their rights, fewer make a claim and of those only a small number are successful at claiming.

“The biggest expense is the airlines hiring lawyers to defend claims that are quite clearly valid under Regulation 261/2004.”

He added: “Of course prevention is always better than cure and as such airlines should be adjusting their operations to ensure that delays and cancellations are reduced as much as possible.”

Managing partner Paul Hinchliffe added: “The regulation is the European Commission’s attempt to balance the rights of individual passengers against the financial might of the airlines.

“It is designed to be a deterrent to airlines who put profit before passengers. Those well managed airlines who really do care for their passengers, have nothing to fear in terms of cost arising from EU 261.

“How else can airlines be held to account for continued poor customer care and over-stretched schedules other than financial penalties?”