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Recently, the European Court of Justice made an historic ruling that airlines must pay compensation for flight delays lasting more than three hours to their passengers, after more than two years of frozen claims as UK airlines presented a legal challenge against the regulations.
It is now required that if a flight arrives at its destination more than three hours later than anticipated, and the delay is due to the airline’s fault (delays by circumstances outside of airline control cannot be claimed against), then passengers can request compensation.
Airlines are already obligated to provide food, water, restrooms and free internet or phone calls to anyone significantly delayed in an airport, but this ruling now includes the right of passengers to receive cash payouts as compensation.
However, it has come to light that airlines are making it as difficult and drawn-out to claim compensation as possible in order to make the process off-putting and customers less likely to claim. The website Flight-Delayed.com represents fliers from seven EU countries and petitions airlines on behalf of EU passengers to claim compensation. Raymond Veldkamp from the company claims that carriers reject compensation requests “95 per cent of the time” and increasingly try to put-off passengers by filling correspondence with legal jargon and a lengthy procedure.
Passengers can currently claim between £204 and £490 in compensation depending on the length of the flight, but most see the hassle of litigation as something not worth the cost. Mr Veldkamp commented, “Passengers are often not aware of their rights. They will usually be fobbed off with vouchers for a future flight, when they are entitled to proper compensation.”
Mr Veldkamp estimates that more than £73million in claims is currently outstanding, even with the new ruling from the ECJ. Unfortunately, airlines now try to use every excuse for the delays under the exception of ‘extraordinary circumstance’. It has already been decided that mechanical faults do not fall into this category, which is used to offset delays caused by weather or pilot strikes, but airlines are continually trying to avoid paying compensation, making the process a lengthy and frustrating one for passengers.
Cries for airlines to be more transparent with information about delays have been met with scorn. Mr Veldkamp has claimed that Ryanair was one of the most difficult airlines to deal with, although the carrier has responded that compensation claims were “ambulance-chasing rubbish”.
It’s quite clear that, as seems common with large businesses, airlines will try to avoid any kind of expense and try everything that they can to avoid payouts. Make sure that you know your rights before flying and if compensation should be claimed, make sure you talk to the right people. Knowledge is most definitely power in this situation.
photo courtesy of aromano