Leading UK airlines have been accused of using “dirty tactics” to put passengers off making claims following flight delays or cancellations.

The accusation comes from flight compensation firm EUclaim, listing Thomson Airways, British Airways, easyJet, Monarch, Jet2.com, Virgin Atlantic and Dublin-based Ryanair as culprits.

Confusing language and complex legal jargon is one tactic used by airlines to confuse passengers.

EUclaim manager Tjitze Noorderhaven said: “The effort most of these airlines have put into confusing passengers about their rights and restricting them from having full access to claiming compensation, shows the type of companies we are up against.

“Having to wait eight weeks for a response; illegal charges and restrictions as part of the terms and conditions; buried website pages and legal gibberish – even by most consumer standards, these dirty tactics make a mockery of the legislation and highlight the real contempt with which airlines hold the rights of passengers.”

Finding the relevant claim form on Thomson’s website took three people an average of 13.21 minutes, according to EUclaim.

So complex are the various ‘notification of rights’ and clauses that BA makes claimants read through, that “passengers better have a degree in law to understand the legal gibberish,” claimed Noorderhaven.

Virgin Atlantic was almost as frustrating. It took three university graduates a total of 15:21 minutes to find the correct online form.

Jet2.com caused “maximum frustration” with the EUcliam team giving up trying to search for the correct information after almost 25 minutes.

A further 7.04 minute call to the customer service centre was needed before being informed that the only way to actually claim directly with the airline was to either email a complaint to the generic customer services email address or to write in.

Noorderhaven said: “From our experience, we know they will do all they can, to not have to pay out the compensation that is legally due if your flight is delayed three hours or more or cancelled.”

A Thomson spokesman said: “We would like to reassure customers that we operate a fair and thorough process to deal with compensation claims in line with the EU delay claims regulation.

“We continue to do everything possible to minimise delays and remain committed to maintaining an excellent on-time performance across our flying programme.

“We also believe that any money due to customers should go in its entirety to them, therefore we will not process any claims submitted via unregulated third party delay claim management companies, who routinely take a large percentage of the payment as commission.

“In this situation we invite customers to submit their claim directly to us to be processed.”