A great week for EU261! [Updated]

Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 18.10.23As the old saying goes, you wait ages for a bus and then three come along at once. It felt a bit like that this week when it came to EU261 compensation for delayed or cancelled flights. In the last 7 days, I’ve claimed a total of €1,400 in compensation under EU regulation. Whilst the money hasn’t landed in the bank account yet, I only claim when I’m almost certain I have a case and my success rate from past claims is 100% so I’m fairly confident!

Each claim has been a little bit different, so I thought it would be interesting to share some details which will hopefully give some inspiration for your own claims.

Before I start, a quick word on whether it’s “right” to claim – after all, aren’t you pushing up ticket prices for all passengers by constantly claiming compensation? Yes, and no. Almost all major airlines have been adding a c. €2 surcharge to airline tickets to cover the costs associated with EU261, since the regulation gathered momentum from around 2005 onwards. So, you’re already paying for it, and if you don’t claim it just means more profit for the airlines.

Claim 1 – IT-related Cancellation in May 2017 (€400)

The IT meltdown at British Airways has been pretty heavily publicised on most major news outlets, and whilst BA and its contractors continue to argue about who exactly is at fault, their is no doubt that this was within BA’s control and they’re on the hook for compensation. Rather than argue in court (which is where it would almost certainly have ended up), BA have done the sensible thing and agreed to payout compensation claims.

I had booked a flight for my sister-in-law from Heathrow to Vienna on Monday, which was one of the last victims of the IT issues. BA cancelled the flight at around 5.45am, c. 5 hours before it was due to depart. The best alternative they could offer was a flight on Tuesday night, which for a trip that was only due to be 3 days anyway would have pretty much invalidated the trip. I ended up booking her on an early flight on the Tuesday with Austrian, and applying for a refund for the cancelled BA flight. Because the flight distance was over 1,500km, the compensation due was at the higher rate of €400 rather than €250.

Outcome [18/6] = Success: It took BA just a few days to reply to my initial e-mail, confirming that my claim was eligible for EU261 and asking for me to provide bank details for it to be paid. Apparently my maths / geography wasn’t great, and Heathrow-Vienna is actually less than 1,500km, so it was paid at the lower rate of €250.

Claim 2 – Delay due to ‘inbound aircraft being delayed’ in February 2017 (€600)

When I was refreshing my memory on the specific EU261 rules for the first claim (above), I realised I had misunderstood the compensation for long-haul flights over 3,500km. I was right in thinking that compensation was €600 for delays over 4 hours, but hadn’t realised that 50% of the compensation was due for flights delayed between 3 and 4 hours.

My wife and I flew from London Heathrow to San Francisco with Virgin Atlantic in February, arriving c. 3hrs late. I didn’t submit a claim at the time as I didn’t think I was due anything, but have just submitted two separate claims for my wife and I this morning. I’m a little less sure on this one, as flight stats  says the delay was just over 3 hours, but my recollection at the time was that it was very marginal on whether it would hit the 3 hour mark or not.

Outcome [18/6] = Unknown: Virgin haven’t yet responded to either of the claims that were submitted. Unfortunately their SLA is 28 days, so I can’t start complaining about a lack of response yet.

Claim 3 – Delay due to technical issues in May 2017 (€400)

Ironically I was submitting the two claims above whilst on the ground at London Gatwick, awaiting a delayed flight to Malta. This was another one that ran very close to the wire, with the eventual delay being 3 hours and 8 minutes. It has been proven countless times that the European Courts deem technical problems to be within the airlines control (you can materially reduce the risk through comprehensive maintenance programs and having contingency parts / aircraft available).

Outcome [18/6] = Success: Another result from BA, who had replied confirming eligibility and credit €400 / £350 into my account within a week of the delayed flight. This is not a bad return from an e-mail that took 5 minutes to write, and paid for 50% of the cost of the holiday!

If you want any help on your own EU261 claims, just get in touch and I’ll do my best to help.

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.

BA and Their ‘Fuel Shortages’

‘EU 261’ is the term used to describe the statutory compensation payable by the airline in the event of delay, cancellation or downgrade. Unsurprisingly the airlines do not make it easy to understand when you are eligible, how to claim and will often wrongly reject claims.

We recently dealt with a classic case of this for a cancelled flight from Edinburgh to London City Airport in October 2015. A claim was filed with British Airways shortly after the flight cancellation. Several weeks later BA responded saying that EU 261 was not payable as the flight was cancelled due to fuel shortages.

This response was challenged multiple times on the basis that:

a) Numerous other aircraft which take the same fuel were departing on the same day

b) EU261 does not specifically exclude compensation in this case

BA still held firm, sending the same copy and paste responses each time. As a result, the claim was escalated to the Civil Aviation Authority, who reviewed the case and sided in favour of the passenger.

Whilst this sounds like a lengthy and complicated process, the reality is that a few emails exchanged and a couple of hours of time led to €250 of compensation paid.

If your flight has been delayed or cancelled, or you have been downgraded, drop an email to advice@therewardconcierge.com and we will do our best to assist.