The Court of Appeal ruled against Emirates in a case to determine whether the legislation applies to non-EU based airlines.
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It is said to apply to flights from the EU, as well as flights into EU airports on an EU-based airline.
However, non-EU carriers including Emirates, Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines, American Airlines and Turkish Airlines have claimed for years that the legislation does not apply to long-haul flights with connections at EU airports.
They argue that they are therefore not entitled to pay out compensation to passengers in the event of a delay during their flight.
The UK Court of Appeal on Friday ruled in favour of a passenger who had brought a case against Emirates.
The Dubai-based carrier, along with three other non-EU airlines, had argued that if the second missed connecting flight was outside the European bloc, they were not liable to pay compensation.
UK media reports said the decision could open the floodgates for millions of passengers to lodge compensation claims against non-EU carriers for past delays.
However, Emirates hinted it would seek to challenge the decision. An Emirates spokesperson said: “We are very disappointed by the Court of Appeal’s ruling in relation to the application of EC261 on our flights from the UK involving a stopover in Dubai, and are currently seeking legal advice on our options.”
The statement added: “Our commitment to excellent customer service will not be compromised and we will continue to always put the safety of our passengers and crew first, going above and beyond to ensure that any disruption caused are kept to a minimum.
“As one of the world’s largest airlines, we have always complied rigorously with all legal requirements and regulations as set by the relevant authorities and these findings today will not impact this commitment.”
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