Our hatred of the bounds of gravity lead to the development of a vibrant air transport industry. However, nothing is frictionless in this world, and not all flights run smoothly. But what happens when you’re faced with disruptions like delays, overbooking or cancelations? Follow the adventure of Bob Madeupington and find out!

So Your Flight Is Borked

Bob Madeupington wants to visit his girlfriend Ophelia Notarealperson. He wants to fly from London – he works at a fish-and-chips app developer startup – to Berlin, where his beloved turns upcycled kebab wrappers into modern art. He’s using a European airline to fly from a European airport (…for now) to a European destination.

However, his flight is disrupted. Maybe the plane was delayed, making Bob late. Maybe the airline overbooked the flight – they do that in order to keep the seats full as some passengers will no doubt miss the flight – and Bob was denied boarding. It might even be the case that the flight got cancelled just as Bob finished paying an exorbitant sum to his Uber driver.

Luckily for our friend Bob – son of Joe Madeupington Jr. and Angela Fictitiousgal – European Regulation EC 261/2004 kicks in to protect his rights! This means that Bob might be entitled to a compensation for the moral damages incurred because of the missed date with his lady, the dreadful uncertainty experienced in the sterile-yet-still-grimy environs of the airport and just general stress.

Compensating Bob – Shakespeare’s lesser known work

To know what financial windfall might await Bob in the future, we have to look at what were the conditions of his flight. EC 261/2004 covers flights that:

  • Originate in an EU-country, even if the destination is outside of EU – includes a connecting flight that started in EU, even if the carrier wasn’t from EU
  • Travelling to an EU-country on an EU carrier
  • Travelling between two EU destinations.

(By the way, EU in this case means 28 EU countries as well as Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion Island, Mayotte, Saint-Martin (French Antilles), the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. However, it does not include the Faeroe Islands, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.)

If Bob’s flight falls within this criteria, he can look into the sum the airline possibly owes him. That depends on the distance travelled. The distance is measured from the origin to the destination, as straight as the crow flies. This also applies to multi-leg flights. If Bob had somehow gotten on a flight London-Stockholm-Berlin, he’d still be compensated according to the distance between London and Berlin. To be more specific, a passenger can expect:

  • 250 euros, if the flight distance was up to 1500 km and he (or she) arrived more than 3 hours late
  • 400 euros, if the flight distance was between 1500 km and 3500 km, and the flight was more than 3 hours late
  • 600 euros if the flight distance was over 3500 km and the flight was more than 3 hours late.

In Bob’s case, the website Distance Calculator shows the distance between London and Berlin to be 933 kilometers, which makes him eligible for 250 euros in compensation.

Now, Bob could try and submit the claim to the airline himself. But while googling stuff related to flight compensation, he found out that not many passengers succeed by doing it themselves. Instead, Bob goes to Skycop to fill out a claim, trusting them to go through this whole rigmarole in exchange for 25% of the compensation, knowing that he won’t have to pay anything if they didn’t win his case.

Bob is Hungry

So while Bob can now twiddle his thumbs and see what Google Play games he can download on the airport Wi-Fi while he waits for the flight to unbork itself, he is still a human being with human needs. Luckily for him, EC 261/2004 was written by humans – offering clear proof that Brussel bureaucrats aren’t crustacean aliens from Nibiru – and with human needs in mind.
Specifically, it states that the airline that messed up has to take of all the reasonable needs that Bob might have.

If the flight is disrupted for more than 3 hours, the airline has to provide him with free meals and drinks. They also have to give him access to a free phone call, a free use of fax (but not telegram – this is 2018, after all) and two emails (Bob’s phone might have died from all the complaining he did on Twitter). If the flight is delayed or cancelled for more than a day, the airline has to book him a hotel room as well as providing transportation to and from.
Incidentally, if the airline messes up and the flight has to land at a different airport than intended, it has to transport the passenger either to the original airport or some other mutually agreed destination free of charge.

When is an Airline not at fault?

However, there are cases where Bob wouldn’t be entitled to a compensation even if the disruption fit all of the aforementioned conditions. Mainly, if the fault wasn’t due to the actions of the airline, they’re not really guilty and thus don’t have to pay. The main groups of absolving factors – called force majeure – are:

  • Weather – this includes horrible visibility, high winds, eruptions of unpronounceable Icelandic volcanoes and lightning strikes.
  • Airport operation disruptions – after all, airlines don’t own the airports!
  • Political disruptions – while the prices of food on the flight might inspire you to take up arms, war, terrorism and general instability aren’t the fault of airlines and they can’t be blamed for that.
  • Trade union strikes
  • Airplane manufacturing flaws – while delaying a flight because you cheaped out on maintenance and an engine fell off is totally the fault of an airline, an engine falling off because the airplane manufacturer didn’t build it right in first place isn’t something you can lay at the feet of the carrier

The compensation might also be either decreased or even waived if Bob accepts a gift voucher or some other forms of compensation.

In conclusion and on compensation

Hopefully, the flight disruption will not pose too many difficulties for Bob to meet Ophelia. And if the stars are right, Bob will claim compensation for his trouble. Said compensation could then be spent to get some cheeky Nando’s with the lads or to buy Ophelia something nice. In any case, a passenger who knows his rights – and knows some professionals who will defend his rights (wink, wink) – stands to gain from such a misfortunate.

Don’t be like Bob’s friend John Strawmanning, whose flights are constantly disrupted, yet never compensated, as he refuses to read any regulation, believing it to be the work of the Devil. Be like Bob Madeupington and stand up for you rights!