School holiday time is upon us again. For many people this will mean taking a flight abroad to a favourite destination. But it is now more likely than ever that you will encounter problems with your flight. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has recently revealed that delays so far this year have already more than doubled, compared to 2017. European Air Traffic Control Delays Loom over Summer Air Travel.
IATA says “Data from Eurocontrol shows that in the first half of 2018, Air Traffic Management (ATM) delays more than doubled to 47,000 minutes per day, 133% more than in the same period last year. Most of these delays are caused by staffing and capacity shortages as well as other causes such as weather delays and disruptive events. The average delay for flights delayed by air traffic control limitations reached 20 minutes in July, but the longest delay reached 337 minutes (5 hours 37 minutes).”
Companies do not do enough to inform people of their rights and most people do not get the compensation they are owed. So, here are some tips on what to do if your flight is postponed, cancelled or you are denied boarding.
1) Compensation for delays is only due on flights in the EU or when using an EU airline arriving two hours (for cancelled and denied boarding flights up to 1,500km, 3 hours for over this length) or more late. How much you are entitled to depends on how long the delay and how long the flight. It changes again if the flight is cancelled before/after seven days before you are due to depart. It does not reflect the price of the flight and is a fixed amount of compensation.
2) If your flight is cancelled or delayed for several hours – the airline must look after passengers. It must provide food, drinks, and some communications. If you are delayed overnight, this also means providing you with a hotel and the travel to and from it. (All these must still be provided even if the delay was out of the airline’s control).
3) If your flight is cancelled – the airline must offer an alternative flight or a full refund. You may also be entitled to compensation if the flight was cancelled less than 14 days before the scheduled departure.
4) Denied boarding or “bumped” from a flight – the airline must offer an alternative flight or a refund. Passengers are entitled to compensation. (Between €125 and €600 depending on length of flight).
5) If your flight is delayed by more than 5 hours and you no longer want to travel you, and your fellow passengers, are entitled to a full refund.
6) If you miss your connecting flight and so arrived at the final destination more than 3 hours late, you are entitled to compensation of between €250 and €600. However, this is only the case if you book both flights together but they can be with different airlines.
7) Airlines may advise you to make alternative travel arrangements, then claim back the cost later. If you do this, try to keep costs down as much as you can, keep receipts and write down the name of the person giving this advice. Book with the same airline if at all possible.
8) Airlines may try and fight your claim! Be ready with quoting your legal rights. You are due to compensation under Regulation (EC) 261/2004. In March 2018 the Supreme Court ruled that airlines must pay compensation when passengers miss a connecting flight and arrive more than 3 hours late, even for destinations outside of the EU.
9) The airlines do not have to respond to complaints within an official time limit, so set them a date by which you expect to receive a response. At the very least they should send you “holding letter” of investigation upon receipt of your complaint.
10) If you are not satisfied with the response you can take the issue to an Alternative Dispute Resolution provider, such as CEDR for BA flights, or make a claim through the online small claims system.
You have up to 6 years to request compensation, so look at cases where you have been refused compensation in the past. It is such a small minority of people who claim this compensation, airlines should do more to ensure passengers are given what’s due instead of blatantly ripping them off!
See All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights for more information about flights delays, including compensation levels and holiday complaints.
For more advice, tips, consumer law and template letters….