Understanding the huge differences in taxes & charges between different redemption options

I wrote a few weeks ago about using a tool called AwardAce to identify the best redemption options when there are multiple options between two cities. The tool is great, but focuses on the number of points needed and only gives an indicative view of the taxes & charges component, which can be a substantial influence on which option to pick.

There are three primary variables which define both the number of points you are charged, and the amount of taxes & charges you pay:

  1. The departure point of your flight, and the local taxes levied;
  2. The points ‘currency’ you’re booking with – BA Avios, Qantas Points etc.
  3. The ‘metal’ you’re flying – e.g. operated by British Airways, American Airlines etc.

There isn’t much you can do about (1), so I’ll focus on (2) and (3). Because both the points amount and the taxes & charges amount change, you need to use this formula to calculate the overall cheapest option:

Cash value of points for Option A + taxes & charges for Option A vs. Cash value of points for Option B + taxes & charges for Option B

Example

Let’s take a journey in Business Class, from Philadelphia to London, using either British Airways Avios or Qantas Points.

Firstly, with British Airways, you have two options:

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 21.43.18

The option at 18.35pm with British Airways costs 50,000 Avios + £374.50, with the option at 21.10pm with American Airlines costs 60,000 Avios + £384.30.

Running the same search with Qantas, gives you the same two options in Business (with an additional option in Economy):

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 21.48.13

In this case, the option at 18.35pm with British Airways costs 53,000 Qantas Points + £370.01, with the option at 21.10pm with American Airlines costing 50,000 Qantas Points + £4.28. That is not a typo, it’s £4.28 in taxes & charges with American Airlines when booking with Qantas.

Converting all of the four potential permutations into cash, you have:

  • British Airways flight (6.35pm)…
    • …with Avios, = 50,000 Avios + £374.50 = £969;
    • …with Qantas, = 53,000 Qantas + £370.01 = £842;
  • American Airlines flight (9.10pm)…
    • …with Avios, = 60,000 Avios + £384.30 = £1,097;
    • …with Qantas, = 50,000 Avios + £4.28 = £450;

 

In this case, booking the American Airlines flight using Qantas points is c. 45% cheaper than the next cheapest option, and almost 60% cheaper than the most expensive option. In terms of absolute savings, a single person travelling one way saves c. £392 in total and more than £370 in absolute cash costs.

 

So how should you use this information?

Firstly, try to maintain a diverse portfolio of different points accounts so that you can take advantage of discrepancies like these. The above was just an example, and it isn’t always the case that using Qantas points is better British Airways Avios – if I had run the same analysis on a domestic flight between Sydney and Melbourne, BA would have come out on top.

Secondly, when you’re considering using your points, it pays to explore a few different options to identify which the cheapest option is, and to consider both the amount of points needed and the taxes & charges in a combined valuation. In the example above, note the taxes & charges between flying American with Avios points and flying BA with Qantas points were very similar, but because Qantas points are (on average) worth less than BA points, it’s overall cheaper to use Qantas points.

Get in touch if you have any questions on the above, or just let me know what you’re thinking and I can have a look for you.

Availability and Alerting with Expert Flyer

partner-center-logo-expert-flyerI wrote a few weeks ago about a site called Award Ace (www.awardace.com), which is a great way of quickly finding out the best value way to redeem your points on a specific route. This week I’m going to cover Expert Flyer (www.expertflyer.com), which is a website with a huge range of features but highlights are:

  1. Alerting on fare class availability;
  2. Detailed fare information;
  3. Flight status and availability;

Whilst Expert Flyer is a subscription service and probably wouldn’t be worth the fee for most infrequent flyers, it’s useful to know what it can do for you as you can always benefit from my subscription!

1. Alerting on fare class availability;

Primary use: being automatically notified when a flight you want to book on points has availability.

‘Availability’ in frequent flyer parlance refers to the ability to reserve seats using air miles on any given flight. Most airlines only release a handful of seats that can be booked using points, and typically only 1-2 in Business Class. The availability of these seats changes all the time, because:

  • Different airlines have different policies for when they first release seats – some do it at T-355 days, some much closer to departure;
  • People book and cancel redemptions all the time;
  • Airlines often release additional seats closer to departure based on how busy the flight is;

It wasn’t so long ago that you would have to manually check on a daily basis to see if seats had opened up on the flight you wanted to book, but Expert Flyer lets you do this automatically.

You simply search for the flight you’re interested using the website interface:

Screen Shot 2017-09-10 at 18.41.49

Click on a ‘setup alert’ button, enter a name for it, and hit save:

Screen Shot 2017-09-10 at 18.42.55

And then sit back and wait! If availability opens up on your flight, you’ll get an e-mail that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2017-09-10 at 18.45.00

If you’re looking to use your points and not wanting to book urgently, just drop me an e-mail and I’m happy to set up alerting / monitoring on your behalf. I’m currently on a 100% success rate for booking the redemptions I need to book based on this alerting, but it could be that availability never opens up, so still be prepared that nothing will come through.

2. Detailed Fare Information

Primary use: being able to work out how long a given airfare is likely to be around for.

I used to worry quite a lot about how long a given price I’d found for some flights was likely to be around. Expert Flyer gives you access to the detailed underlying fare information that lets you work this out! As an example, say you’d found bargain prices for London to Istanbul with British Airways. Do you book straight away, or can you wait a few days to confirm other things like accommodation?

If you put the flight details into Expert Flyer, and select ‘detailed fare rules’, you’ll get a screen that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2017-09-10 at 18.52.48

You can see from this screenshot, that it states ‘TICKETS MUST BE ISSUED ON/AFTER 31AUG17 AND ON/BEFORE 26SEP17″, which tells me I’ve got until the 26th September to book before the fare expires and the price is likely to increase.

3. Flight status and availability;

Primary use: working out how busy a flight is to inform upgrade chances and flight selection.

As a general rule, it’s better to fly Economy when the plane is quiet (increased chance you’ll be able to engineer a row to yourself), and to fly Premium Economy when the plane is really busy (increased chance of an upgrade).

Expert Flyer lets you search any flight and see how booked it is. Taking a flight from London to Hong Kong tomorrow as an example:

Screen Shot 2017-09-10 at 18.58.11

The above screenshot shows you every direct flight from London to Hong Kong tomorrow; 5 flights with Cathay Pacific (‘CX’), 2 flights with British Airways (‘BA’) and 1 flight with Virgin (‘VS’). Over to the right is the column entitled ‘available classes’ and then a series of letters followed by numbers. The letter is the fare class, and the number is how many seats are available against that fare class.

  • F,A denotes First Class
  • J,C,D,I denotes Business Class
  • W,R,E, T denotes Premium Economy
  • Y, B, H, K, M, L, V, S, N Q, O denotes Economy

There is some variation between airlines, who might use the codes slightly differently, but the above is a good general guide.

Putting these together with the numbers in the screenshot, and taking BA31 as an example:

  • ‘F1 A0’ means there is a single seat for sale in First Class. Given airlines ordinarily oversell First by a single seat, this probably means F is completely full at present.
  • ‘J3, C1, D1, R1, I1’ means there are 7 seats in total for sale in Business Class. Again, airlines are typically willing to overbook Business by a few seats, so I would guess Business is 95%+ full.
  • ‘W4, E2, T1’ means there are 7 seats for sale in Premium Economy. Given the BA Premium Economy cabin is only c. 20 seats, this means PE is likely 60-70% full.
  • ‘Y9, B9, H9, K9, M9, L9, V9, S9, N9 Q9, O9’ means there are a heck of a lot of seats available in Economy! At most, Economy is looking 50-60% full.

If I were in Business or Premium Economy on tomorrow’s BA31, I wouldn’t fancy my changes for an upgrade, but if I was in Economy I’d be feeling optimistic about my ability to bag a row to myself in the airport.

If you have flights you want to book, or upcoming flights that you’re simply interested in, then just drop me an e-mail and I can use my Expert Flyer subscription to help you out.

Why InterContinental Ambassador is the only reward scheme that I’m happy to pay for.

Screen Shot 2017-07-16 at 22.06.46Regular readers will have picked up that I am a huge fan of InterContinental properties, and the IHG rewards scheme ‘Rewards Club’. The ability to earn large numbers of points in their regular ‘Accelerate’ promotions by staying at low cost properties, to then redeem them at aspirational 5* properties, is exactly what you want from a hotel rewards scheme. There is one small catch, however, in the way that IHG run their reward scheme. They actually have two schemes:

  • IHG Rewards Club – the ‘main’ program, with levels including Club, Gold, Platinum and Spire. It works much like every other hotel loyalty scheme, albeit with the benefits for top tier members being fairly weak. Benefits apply across Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Staybridge Suites etc.
  • InterContinental Ambassador – applies only to InterContinental properties, and gives excellent benefits at those properties. There are two levels, ‘standard’ InterContinental Ambassador and Royal Ambassador, which is invitation only.

The fact that you have to pay for Ambassador status will put many people off, but it’s one scheme I have no problem paying for so thought it would be worth quickly running through the cost and the benefits.

How much is it?

There are two different rates, one for initially purchasing Ambassador and one for renewing. Initial purchase costs US$200 or 32,000 IHG points, with renewal having three options:

  1. Renew for US$150 and receive 10,000 IHG points;
  2. Renew for US$200 and receive 15,000 IHG points and a 10% rebate on all reward nights;
  3. Renew for 24,000 IHG points and receive 5,000 IHG points;

What are the benefits?

According to the marketing spiel, you will get all the things listed below. I’ve added my own views and experiences in receiving them in italics:

  • Guaranteed room upgrade each time you stay – one of the best benefits. If the next room up is a suite, it’s a big jump, but occasionally an ‘upgrade’ can just me a slightly improved view. I’ve only ever had good experiences and ended up in a materially better room.
  • Fresh fruit upon arrival – never really notice this one.
  • In-room mineral water (replenished daily) – if you have elite status in IHG rewards club, you’ll likely get complimentary water anyway, but it’s handy to have it guaranteed.
  • In-room welcome gift – the gift is at the discretion of the hotel, and has ranged from a key ring (yay…) to a bottle of wine (much better). I tend to keep my expectations low.
  • Single-room rate for double occupancy – no experience of this one – will need to investigate!
  • Extended check-out — up to 4 pm – one of the best benefits, I use this pretty much every time I stay in an InterContinental. If you have an evening flight, it’s great to head out for the day and then come back and use the room for a shower etc. before heading to the airport.
  • Dedicated Ambassador check-in area – does normally mean you get into your room quicker, but even if you’re checking in as a ‘normal’ guest you rarely spend more than a few minutes waiting.
  • Complimentary pay-TV film per stay – only works on paid stays (not reward nights), but I do quite like having the option particularly on longer stays.
  • Complimentary newspaper, delivered daily – it’s a newspaper…
  • Instant checkout – not even sure why they mention this one, it’s open to anybody.
  • Complimentary weekend night certificate – definitely in the top three benefits, this gives you a free night at the weekend when you pay for one night (e.g. pay for Friday, get Saturday free). Whilst you pay a higher rate than the cheapest advanced purchase rate for the one night you do pay for, it works out as at least a 35-45% discount on a weekend stay.
  • 5,000 bonus IHG Rewards Club points – I think of this as offsetting some of the fee you pay for Ambassador in the first place.

Pulling out the key benefits, for a max of US$200, you get:

  • 5,000 IHG points worth c. US$40
  • A free night in an InterContinental worth c. US$100
  • Benefits on each stay valued at US$20-$30

A quick bit of maths will tell you if you’re  going to stay more than 2-3 times at an InterContinental over 12 months, it’s worth paying for the status. I probably do 5-6 InterContinental stays per year and certainly don’t regret paying for it.

 

Travel ‘101’: Where should you stay when you’re flying from Heathrow?

she268ex.148268_mdI had an early flight from Heathrow a few weeks ago, and since I no longer live 30 minutes away, stayed at one of the hotels not far from the airport. Whilst I was there, it occurred to me that over the years I’ve stayed at a significant percentage of the ‘mainstream’ Heathrow hotels, including:

  • Holiday Inn London T5
  • Sheraton Heathrow Hotel
  • Sofitel T5
  • Sheraton Skyline
  • Holiday Inn Heathrow Ariel
  • Hilton Garden Inn Heathrow
  • Hilton London Heathrow Airport (T4)

And probably a few others that I’ve missed off the list too. Rather than rate all of them, I’ll go for the two that will get my custom every time in the future!

Best for convenience…Sofitel T5

The Sofitel is connected to the terminal at T5, is a genuine 5* hotel and a great option whether you’re flying from either T5 (a short walk) or T1,2 and 3 (free Heathrow Express). You’ll pay for the privilege, but on a fairly frequent basis you can get the Sofitel as a “secret hotel” on lastminute.com and other aggregators. It will look something like this:

Screen Shot 2017-06-25 at 23.02.49

The screenshot shows £168, but it’s frequently available for close to £100.

Best for value…Hilton Garden Inn Heathrow

Located close to Hatton Cross tube is the Hilton Garden Inn Heathrow. It’s a “low end” hotel, but recently renovated and a short walk from Hatton Cross. It’s infinitely easier than relying on the ‘Hotel Hoppa’ services between the hotels and the airport terminals. You can pick it up for c. £60 in a sale, £75 as a ‘normal’ price or c. 20,000 Hilton points:

Screen Shot 2017-06-25 at 23.12.07

I struggle to see myself using any other hotels in the Heathrow area other than the two above, not withstanding these possible exceptions:

  1. A lucrative promotion / bonus with other providers; I’ve stayed at both the Holiday Inn London Ariel and the Sheraton to trigger IHG / SPG bonuses respectively.
  2. Significant price difference; it’s unlikely that you’ll find hotels much cheaper than the Garden Inn, but if you want to stay somewhere nicer but the Sofitel is expensive, it would be worth considering the Hilton at T4 (except if you’re flying from T5).

Great to hear from you on whether you have a different set of go-to hotels at Heathrow, and if so why!

 

Great deals from Australia to Asia with Philippine Airlines

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 14.30.48Philippine Airlines have launched a great sale from a number of Australian cities to a wide range of Asian destinations in Business Class. Rather than cover this with a short paragraph in the weekly e-mail, I thought it would be worth providing a bit more detail in this post.

How good are the deals?

Between A$1,200 and A$1,300 return in Business Class to a wide range of destinations in Asia. That’s around 50% to 70% less than you would expect to pay with Qantas, Malaysian, Cathay etc..

Are Philippine Airlines any good?

They are not on the same level as Qantas, Cathay etc., and don’t have a great track record on punctuality and the quality of lounges in Manila, but they are making significant investments in their product and service and if you were to just filter on reviews from the last 6-12 months you’d get a significantly improved picture. All flights between Sydney and Melbourne are due to be fully flat in Business Class from the middle of the year. I would certainly be happy to fly them and their Business Class seat a long way ahead of any airlines in Economy or Premium Economy.

When do I have to book by and when can I travel?

You need to book by 31st March to take advantage of the current fares, and you can travel anytime between 1st June and 30th November. The minimum stay is 3 days, and the max stay is a month.

Where can I go?

The following origins and destinations are included in the sale:

  • From Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane
  • To Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Tokyo, Ho Chi Minh, Taipei, Osaka, Fukuoka, Shanghai and Guam.

All have layovers in Manila, some of which are very short (1-3 hours) and others are overnight.

Is Philippine Airlines part of an alliance?

No, PAL isn’t part of either Oneworld, SkyTeam or Star Alliance. It does have earning and burning agreements with ANA and Etihad, so you can credit the miles to other schemes. ANA have a better redemption chart, so I would go with them over Etihad, though it’s probably easier to top up an Etihad account given the range of credit card partners.

Happy booking!

 

New British Airways flights from Manchester & London Stansted.

British_Airways_Manchester_Boeing_737-200_KvWBritish Airways strategy for much of the last 5-10 years has been to focus on London Heathrow as its hub airport. For the most part this is due to the cost benefits of operating from one place. This wasn’t always the case, with BA having had a significant regional presence in the past. In more recent times there have been very few exceptions to the “all flights must start or end at Heathrow” rule, mainly focused on fights from London City and a solitary Edinburgh to Ibiza flight! This looks set to change as BA announces the launch of a series of flights from Manchester and London Stansted, and as a result I thought it would be helpful to give a quick run down of the new routes.

Manchester

Most of the flights are seasonal, and in general there is only one in each direction each week, so will mostly benefit leisure travellers who are going away somewhere for a week. They are:

  • Alicante
    • Dates: 20th May – 30th September
    • Day(s): Saturdays
    • Times
      • dep. MAN 05.50, arr. ALC 09.40;
  • Ibiza
    • Dates: 18th May – 1st October
    • Day(s): Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays
    • Times:
      • dep. MAN 21.25, arr. IBZ 01.15 (Thurs)
      • dep. MAN 19.30, arr. IBZ 23.30 (Sat)
      • dep. MAN 12.50, arr. IBZ 16.40 (Sun)
  • London City
    • Dates: 21st May – 1st October
    • Day(s): Sundays
    • Times:
      • dep. MAN 19.55, arr. LCY 20.55
  • Malaga
    • Dates: 19th May – 29th September
    • Day(s): Fridays
    • Times:
      • dep. MAN 05.35, arr. AGP 09.35
  • Mykonos
    • Dates: 19th May – 29th September
    • Day(s): Fridays
    • Times:
      • dep. MAN 13.10, arr. JMK 19.10
  • Nice
    • Dates: 20th May – 30th September
    • Day(s): Saturdays
    • Times:
      • dep. MAN 13.05, arr. AGP 16.25
  • Palma
    • Dates: 21st May – 1st October
    • Day(s): Sundays
    • Times:
      • dep. MAN 05.50, arr. PMI 09.35

In terms of new flights from Stansted, unfortunately the schedules haven’t yet been published, but you will be able to fly to Florence, Geneva and Nice. I’ll drop the details of these into the weekly e-mail once they’re available.

Travel ‘101’: Getting from the UK to Australia

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-19-08-15I’ve spent a fair amount of time recently either flying between the UK and Australia, or helping other people to do the trip. I thought it would be worthwhile putting together a quick guide on the myriad different ways you can complete the journey and how I rate each option. For simplicity, I’ve focused on routes which only need one stopover, and also only looked at London to Sydney [the results for Melbourne would be pretty similar].

The first thing that may come as a surprise is that there are (at least) 20 different places that fit that description! Before launching into the best places to stopover, a note on how the rating has been compiled:

  • All 20 options have been rated against 8 different criteria, with the maximum possible score being 30 points.
  • Single Ticket: 3 points if you can buy a single ticket at a reasonable price (<£1k for Economy) to cover the whole journey, otherwise 0 points.
  • Price: a bit of a subjective one, but over time I’ve got a good feel for which stopover points are the cheapest. $ = 3pts, $$ = 2pts and $ = 1pt.
  • Airline Quality: a rating out of 5, reflecting a combination of choice of different airlines and the airlines themselves (e.g. Cathay, Singapore Airlines get 5, China Southern gets 2).
  • Airport Quality: a rating out of 5, reflecting a number of things like transfer experience, airport facilities, lounge quality, and security.
  • Travel Time (Flying): amount of time in the air, with <22hrs giving 3 points, >24hrs giving 1 point and anything in between giving 2 points.
  • Travel Time (Total): total end-to-end journey time, including flight time and layover. Scoring as above with an extra 2.5 hours added on for a ‘standard’ stopover.
  • Frequency: daily number of flights, which gives different options in terms of timing and ‘fall backs’ when there are delays / misconnects.
  • Stopover Rating: (very) subjective rating out of 5 of what the place would be like for a 1-2 night stopover, including things like cost of accommodation, interest as a tourist destination, ease of getting into the city from the airport etc.

There aren’t many surprises at the top, with Hong Kong and Singapore coming joint 1st, followed closely by Dubai then Tokyo. In joint 5th are a handful of airports including Abu Dhabi, Doha, Bangkok and KL.

You can see the complete list here:

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-21-48-44

Overall, there’s actually relatively little that separates a number of these airports! Hopefully the above list is useful in planning your next UK to Australia trip, and do let me know if I’ve missed any obvious stopover locations and / or you disagree with the ratings above!

How do I get the best value when using Qantas points?

When I’m trying to decide how best to use my points with a given Frequent Flyer Program (FFP), I tend to look at three things:

  • The number of points required for the distance flown;
  • The cost of the taxes & charges;
  • The experience, including flight times, routing, seat, service etc. etc.

I then evaluate these things against both other redemption opportunities, but also against ‘doing nothing’ and using cash instead of points.

This article focuses on the first of these three categories. The steps below are for the Qantas FFP, but the principles apply across all programs.

  • Number of Points – Reward charts

I’ve talked previously about how you can maximise the value you get from your points by flying to places on the edge of distance boundaries, taking advantage of the zonal system by which most FFPs operate.

Qantas have two different award charts, one for redeeming on Qantas / Emirates / AA and the other for redeeming on Oneworld Partners (BA, Qatar, Finnair etc.). The former requires less points for an equivalent redemption than the latter.

This is what the Qantas ‘Classic Flight Reward’ chart looks like, with the ‘points per real mile’ value overlaid and the best value options highlighted in green:

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-42-33

With a couple of anomalies, the further you fly the better the value you get, and whilst this is a fairly unexciting reward chart the standout appears to be Zone 8.

This is the equivalent ‘Partner Classic Flight Reward’ chart:

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-10-20-56

It’s broadly the same in terms of sweet spots, with the point rates all being c. 10% higher than the Qantas Classic Flight Reward chart.

  • Number of Points – Destination Zones

So these charts tell you the best value distances, but how do you know which destinations fall within that zone? Instead of searching the flight distance route-by-route, I use an online radius plotter to draw concentric circles around my departure points to see which cities fall within the circle.

Here’s an example looking at flying from Singapore to Europe:

screen-shot-2016-11-12-at-16-45-04

Black is 4,800 miles / 60,000 points, red is 5,800 miles / 72,000 points and blue is 7,000 miles / 84,000 points [all in Business]. For a couple flying together, you’ll use 48,000 less points on a return by flying into Helsinki instead of London!

Here’s another example from Sydney to Asia:

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-20-14-07

Bangkok at just inside 60,000 points in Business and Jakarta at just inside 50,000 in Business make it on to the ‘decent value’ list, with Tokyo being a nudge into the 72,000 points zone.

  • Summary

If you’re flexible about your destination or your routing, you can use these maps and this approach to get the best value for your points. I very rarely do a ‘normal’ trip these days which involves a return into a single city, I will often patch together a network of good value redemptions!

I can help you put together your own maps for the destinations you’re interested in, just get in touch!

Using Google Flights ‘tracked prices’ to find cheap flights.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-20-34-58In general I don’t recommend Google Flights for ‘serious’ flight research, as the range of fares it can tap into are limited and you’re restricted to no more than five airports in either the origin or destination airport.

It does have a couple of great features though, one of which gives you the ability to track prices over time and receive alerts when the price falls. I like this feature for two reasons:

  • The obvious one is that you can be notified when the price drops on a route you’re interested in, hopefully meaning you save money.
  • The second one is that if you watch the prices for a given period of time and they don’t fall, you at least have some confidence that you’re not paying when prices are at a peak.

Clearly the price can go up or down in the time that you’re tracking it, so it shouldn’t change the fact that if you find a price you’re happy with and that seems to be good value, you should book!

 

How do I set up an alert?

Start by going to the Google Flights site: https://www.google.com/flights/

You need to be signed in to a Google account, if you don’t have one you’ll need to set one up. Once you’ve signed in, start by entering in the details of the search you want to track: origin, destination, class and dates. You should get a screen like this:

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-22-05-34

At the bottom you can see a ‘Track prices’ option, with a slider on the right that currently shows as ‘OFF’. Slide this to ‘ON’ to start tracking your flight. Once you’ve done this, you should see a small red circle in the top left corner and the ability to view the flight in ‘tracked prices’:

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-22-09-07

When you click on ‘Tracked prices’, you’ll see the details of the flights that you’ve saved, in this case you can just see the single London to Sydney search that I just created:

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-22-12-19

To keep tabs on your flights, simply await the e-mails or log back into ‘Google Flights’ to see the latest prices – you can see in the image in the top right of this post what it looks like when you’ve had some flight details in for a month or two.

For any help using Google Flights or questions on this post, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Travel ‘101’: Claiming Compensation & Assistance via EU261.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 09.47.30What is EU261?

It’s the European Union legislation which provides compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of delay, cancellation, denied boarding and downgrades. It was first implemented in 2005, and since then there have been a significant number of legal test cases which have clarified the applicability of the law.

When does it apply & what can you get?

There are some general criteria which must be met for the legislation to apply:

  • Your flight must depart from an airport in an EU country OR
  • Your flight must arrive into an airport in an EU country on a flight operated by an EU airline

If your flight falls into either of the categories above then you’re covered, and can receive one or more of the following:

  1. Right to reimbursement or re-routing. Applies when your flight is cancelled or where you are denied boarding (e.g. because the flight is oversold).
  2. Right to care and assistance. Applies when your flight is cancelled, delayed or you are denied boarding. Kicks in based on flight distance, starting from when your delay exceeds 2 hours on flights up to 1,500km.
  3. Right to compensation. Applies across all four categories of delay, cancellation, denied boarding and downgrade. Again kicks in based on flight distance, starting from when your delay exceeds 3 hours on flights up to 1,500km.

Note that whilst you start to be entitled to care and assistance after 2 hours, you can’t claim compensation until your delay exceeds 3 hours.

How do I claim?

Naturally the airlines don’t make this as easy as they could, and the exact process will differ for each airline. Some airlines have a specific online form for claiming EU261 (e.g. Easyjet), whereas others just require you to submit an ordinary complaint via their website (e.g. British Airways). The steps below outline the usual process:

  1. Confirm that your circumstances are claimable. Some scenarios are excluded from the legislation, namely where the delay / cancellation is caused by ‘events beyond the airlines control’. Things like air traffic control strikes, extreme weather and terrorism fall into this category.
  2. Confirm the specifics of what you’re entitled to. Being clear in your claim will help ensure you get the right amount of compensation.
  3. Write to the airline, confirming that you are making a claim under EU261 legislation (that bit is important). You should outline:
    • What the circumstances were;
    • Why you believe you’re entitled to compensation;
    • How much you are claiming for;
  4. Prepare to be challenged. In my experience, it is extremely rare that your claim will be accepted and paid at the first request. The airline will normally try to push the boundaries on ‘extraordinary circumstances’ to convince you to drop your claim. This is where the homework you’ve done in (1) is important to give you the confidence to reaffirm your position. The onus is on the airline to prove extraordinary circumstances.

How can we help?

We’ve been on the receiving end of €1000’s of successful claims in the past, and can help by providing advice on any element of the process. Some examples of previous successes:

  • Forced Easyjet to admit that a 3 hour delay was not due to weather by showing a log of arrivals and departures from the airport concerned around the scheduled departure time.
  • Used knowledge of previous test cases to successfully argue with BA that ‘delay to the inbound’ was not a valid reason to avoid paying compensation.
  • Successfully escalated to the Civil Aviation Authority when BA wouldn’t budge on claiming a cancellation was due to ‘fuel shortages’ and thus beyond their control.

We would always encourage you to claim directly with the airline yourself, and can help you to do that. If for whatever reason that doesn’t appeal, we can handle the claim on your behalf, charging a 20% fee if the claim is successful.

Any questions or help on this topic, don’t hesitate to get in touch.