So you were trying to fly somewhere, but you experienced a flight disruption. Your flight may have been delayed, it may have been canceled, or maybe it left without you since you were forced to disembark due to overbooking. Naturally, you would feel that the airline is at fault for all of these incidents. However, the law on flight disruption compensation sets out many exceptions that allow the airline to not pay you anything. So when can you actually claim compensation – and get paid?
Getting compensation: the basics
The circumstances surrounding flight delays and cancellations are usually quite similar. After all, the biggest difference is in the measure by which it is determined whether your disruption was actually disruptive enough. For flight delays, it’s a time of arrival matter: if your flight lands more than 3 hours late, you can claim compensation. For cancellations, you can claim compensation if you were warned of the cancellation less than 14 days before the flight.
If your flight disruption satisfies the criteria above, then you get into the really tricky territory. The exceptions for delays and cancellations are many: weather, strikes, plane manufacturing defects, airport operation issues, military action, and so on. Many of these will appear among the excuses an airline will give when explaining why you can’t claim compensation.
Crew rotation issues? It’s the airline’s fault
However, under what circumstances are disruptions considered to be the airline’s fault? Well, it must be something that the airline has control over. Clearly, they can’t control the weather. What they can control is the staff rotation. The airlines don’t have much in the way of excess personnel. Sure, flight attendants may not be too hard to hire, but pilots are another matter. Taking thousands of hours to train up and get certified, they are a rare breed. The conditions are not improved by what some of them consider to be low pay and the disruptive effect that rotations have on their family life.
Therefore, airlines have to plan very carefully to get the most utility out of the cabin crews and pilots they have. Sometimes, they don’t do such a good job of it and a flight ends up being postponed (delayed) or canceled. In this case, you can not only claim compensation but also expect it to be awarded. Staff schedules are one of those things that the airline definitely has control over.
Plane rotation issues? The airline’s to blame
But even if you have the staff, it doesn’t mean anything if the plane that is supposed to fly them is just not there. Each airliner is a massive expense. And even if airlines are generally happy to shoulder the costs, sometimes there aren’t enough planes to buy. By which I mean that the backlog at Boeing and Airbus, the two biggest manufacturers in the world, is measured in decades.
That’s why airlines have to pay plane scheduling as much attention as they do to staff schedules. So if the plane isn’t there because the airline messed up making plans and flowcharts, you can claim compensation and see it awarded to you.
Aircraft maintenance? The airline’s responsibility
Granted, sometimes planes just refuse to fly. In some very rare cases, it’s due to plane manufacturing defects, in which you can’t claim compensation. More often, it’s due to plane maintenance shortfallings, in which case the airline is held responsible and you can claim compensation. There are plenty of stories of flights being delayed, canceled or turning around just because some minor parts in the air conditioning system broke down.
However, since planes are such sensitive pieces of equipment, everything has to be in top shape for the flight. If your flight was delayed or canceled due to something that maintenance had to pick up on breaking down, the airline is considered at fault and they have to pay compensation.
Overbooking: if it’s not you, it’s the airline
Lastly, we come to overbooking. It’s a term we use to describe the event when a passenger is not allowed on a plane because there aren’t enough seats. This is the effect of the air carrier selling more tickets to the flight that there are seats: since not all passengers make it to their flight, this is a way to ensure that the plane is maximally full and thus profitable. However, sometimes every passenger shows up and some are denied boarding – or are deplaned. If that happened to you – and you didn’t volunteer to give up your seat – you can claim flight compensation.
Note that you may not claim compensation if you were denied boarding or forced to disembark due to drunkenness, disorderly conduct and so on.
And there you have it: a short, succinct explanation on when the airline is considered to be at fault when it comes to flight disruptions. If a flight delay, canceled flight or an overbooking you experienced matches the criteria mentioned above, claim flight compensation with Skycop! Up to €600 may be yours. Want to know how much your case could be worth? Try out our flight compensation calculator!