According to Bureau of Transportation, in 2016 airlines were responsible for a half (50%) of all flight disruptions – the highest number since 2003. Increasing number of carrier-caused flight disruptions affects more than 1 billion passengers per year, yet at first glimpse it may seem that, at least EU citizens, have a right to alleviate the stressful disruptions with a solid compensation. Under EC 261/2004 Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council, failing to meet its contractual obligations, airlines are obliged to take care of the afflicted and pay out compensation, ranging from €250 to €600.    

However, in reality, the story is quite the different – as if that’s not enough for the airline to ruin your plans, they might turn the money claiming process into another challenge. As Marius Stonkus, the CEO of global platform explains, carrier caused flight disruptions might derive from maintenance or crew problems, aircraft cleaning to baggage loading, fuelling and others. “Despite the regulation, airlines avoid to comply with it and to this day only EU companies owe around €3,2 billion to its passengers. Carriers routinely refuse to pay out the compensations, thus knowing when you are entitled to compensation, how to claim it and what to do if your claim is rejected are the initial steps to receive the correct treatment.“

“In case of a late flight, airline must provide the affected passengers by providing them with refreshments, two phones calls and with the internet access. Afflicted travellers may seek for the right care depending on their flight distance. EU law regulating compensation payout applies for trips up to 1500km which are delayed for two hours, 1500km – 3500km – for 3 hours and flights over 3500km – for not less than 4 hours. Instead of a one-time service, airline has an obligation to take care of the affected passengers throughout the full time of delay. Food and other supplies must satisfy the basic needs, thus if the passengers are trapped for longer periods, they should be served accordingly,” comments attorney at law Giedrius Kolesnikovas from Motieka & Audzevicius.

Also, when stuck in the airport, you might want to let your relatives or whoever it may concern know about the delay. Thus, carrier should arrange two phone calls and access to e-mail. If boarding is rescheduled for the next day, the airline should also offer accommodation and cover any transport expenses between the hotel and the airport.

In addition to providing for the basic needs when flight is delayed for over 3 hours, cancelled with a less than 14 day notice or overbooked, carrier must pay out the compensation. Under EU rules, compensation size depends on the flight distance – with a starting number of €250 for flights with a distance of less than 1500km long and going up to €600 for flights more than 3500km. It is important that afflicted passengers would not agree with compensations or funny complimentary vouchers that don’t comply with the law.

Passengers can claim compensation either by contacting the airline or using claim management specialists similar to SKYCOP, which take the advocate role in further battle with the airline. “Statistically, taking your claim straight to the airline gives you only a 20% chance to win the claim. In 2017, UK CAA declared that more than half (53%) of all carrier refused cases were incorrect. Airlines like Norwegian Air Shuttle, Ryanair and Iberia were advised to pay around 70% of originally turned down cases. Since EU regulations don’t apply if the disruptions have been caused by factors outside the airline’s control, companies might turn down any claim by using the loophole of technical faults or bad weather as extraordinary circumstances, which place flight disruption outside of company’s responsibility. That’s why you should always, and I mean always know your rights, otherwise airline’s legal team will find your weakness or mistake and use it to reject your claim,” concludes Marius Stonkus, the CEO of SKYCOP.

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Monarch Airlines: another airline bankruptcy with over €291 million in passenger compensations left unaccounted