Jetting to Europe and worried about delays?
|A screen displays delayed flights at Gatwick Airport
Unlike in the U.S., airlines in Europe are now required by law to pay passengers in cash for prolonged flight delays.
Last Friday’s ruling by the European Court of Justice that flights arriving over three hours later than their scheduled time – defined by the time when at least one aircraft door is open, not when wheels touch the ground – means passengers can seek compensation anywhere in the range of $160 to $800 per person. This latest ruling could cost the airlines billions.
The delay must be the fault of the airline.
So strikes and bad weather won’t qualify, but if your flight was disrupted because of equipment malfunctions or the airline not being prepared for bad weather while other flights
ran on time, then you have the right to pursue a claim.
Previously, passengers had their claims for compensation denied because the airline contended that the flight did arrive on time, based on when the aircraft landed or came to a standstill.
But as FlyersRights members know, a lot of waiting can happen between the time a plane lands, taxis, and a door finally opens.
U.S. and Canadian citizens benefit from new EU flight delay compensation laws
The law provides for US and Canadian citizens and entitles them to up to $800 in compensation from the carrier when they are delayed on routes between North America and Europe.
The flight must be operated by an EU-regulated airline. This means the passenger is either departing from any airport within the EU on any airline (including US airlines), or is flying into Europe on an EU-based airline.
In addition, both the distance of the flight and the duration of the delay affect the amount of compensation passengers may be able to claim. This can range from 125 – 600 Euros ($160 – $800) per person.
Since 2009, EU rules have stated that passengers who reach their destination more than three hours late can claim up to Euro 600 plus expenses, per person, if the delay is within the airline’s control.
However, the airlines have stonewalled thousands of passengers from getting the cash they are entitled to, because airlines often refuse to pay out even when the regulator rules against them. While most customers give up at this point, some have gone to court.
Underscores How Badly The System Is Rigged Against US Consumers
Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights said, “The Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights would help, but the US is well behind the EU and Canada in providing compensation for excessive flight delays. Yet, somehow EU airlines offer cheaper fares within Europe.”
“Transatlantic fares are at record levels due to DOT sanctioned alliances,exempt from price fixing antitrust laws and domestic fares are also soaring”, he said.
The ramifications of this decision are significant. For example, about 2.6 million passengers fly from London to New York every year, of which approximately 21 thousand passengers would be directly affected by the regulation.
Collectively, they would be eligible for compensation of around $17 million.
In light of the court’s decision, the website Flightright is recommending passengers take the following steps whenever it looks like their flight will be significantly delayed:
- If the delay occurs at the departing airport, ask a gate agent what is the cause of the delay. The weather? A technical issue? Crew staffing problems? Note the reason the airline provides, and when it was given. Document any other pertinent information provided by airport or airline staff.
- Record the time that you boarded the aircraft, when the aircraft pushed back from the gate, and when it took off.
- During the flight, ask a member of the flight or cabin crew if they know the cause of the delay. Document any information provided, who provided it, and the time.
- Upon arrival at the destination airport, note when the aircraft landed, when it came to a standstill, and when it docked at the gate or parking area.
- Document the exact time that the first door was opened.
According to Flightright, technical problems with an aircraft, bad weather, and delays associated with crew staffing problems are the most common reasons why passengers claim compensation.
They Fought The Law And The Law Won
Last week’s judgments follow a six-year battle between EU airlines and passengers.
It was Jet2 airline that brought the whole edifice crashing down, reported MoneySavingExpert.com.
Up to that point, the airlines had been fighting a generally effective guerrilla war in small claims court.
This certainly deterred most passengers from cashing in on their legitimate legal entitlement for delayed flights, and accordingly worked in the favor of the airlines.
But rather than pay out one passenger, Ron Huzar
‘s, small claim, Jet2 decided to bet the farm (and indeed all the other airlines’ farms) by doubling down.
If the airline had won in the Court of Appeal, the protection afforded byRegulation 261/04 would have been seriously eroded.
But if they lost, they would create a binding legal precedent that would ensure an unambiguous and definitive interpretation of the law in favor of the passenger.
So, well done, Jet2. You may be a fairly unremarkable airline, but you’ve done something truly special for EU passengers. This victory is your very own Halloween.
Jet2.com did not wish to provide a comment.
Experts predict this victory will open the floodgates for claims from passengers who suffer delays in the future.