Fight no flight

Airlines are refusing to pay passengers the flight compensation that they are entitled to for delayed flights.

EU rules dictate that passengers whose flight has been delayed by more than three hours should receive between €250 and €600 regardless of the price paid for the plane ticket. However, when a recent long-haul flight from Heathrow to San Francisco landed 3 hours and 23 minutes after the expected arrival time, British Airways refused to pay out. They justified the refusal on the basis that the delay was caused by a catering vehicle’s lift being stuck on the aircraft. As the caterer is a ‘third party ground operation’, the airline said that the situation was beyond its operational control.

Under EU law, airlines do not have to pay compensation if the delay was caused by something genuinely outside of its responsibility, such as the weather or the fact that an already-delayed flight might have to wait for another take-off slot. For delays resulting from matters that are within its control, the airline would be liable for  €300 where the flight is more than 3,500km and the delay is between three and four hours.

Legal experts have suggested that it is not clear whether the problem was within the airline’s control or not and the position of the contractors involved would need to be made clearer. However, Consumer rights campaigners have argued that airlines ought to be responsible anyway where a contractor makes an error, because the airline pays the contractor’s wages.

Consumer Watchdog Which? has said that the case is yet another example of how complex and confusing it can be to claim compensation where a flight is delayed or cancelled. It believes that airlines should make the process of claiming much simpler for passengers.

Earlier in September, a passenger told Times Money that he too had been refused flight compensation by British Airways. He was told that 133 minutes of the delay was due to a contractor’s error, while 13 minutes was down to the weather and 40 minutes resulting from airfield congestion. The passenger later found that another traveller on the same flight had been awarded €300. The Times has also reported that a staggering 4,000 complaints were made to the CEDR (Aviation Adjudicator) last year regarding airlines that include British Airways and Easyjet. The Adjudicator noted that companies routinely used confusing terms and conditions which were difficult to understand.

A quick guide to your claim:

If your flight was delayed for more than 3 hours and it was the airline’s fault, you are entitled to compensation under EU Regulation 261:

  • Up to 1,500km :  €250
  • 1,500km - 3,500km : €400
  • 3,500km+ : €300 (3-4 hours delay) or €600 for longer.

In addition, if your flight is delayed by more than two hours, your airline has to provide food and drink. You can claim under the EU Regulation provided that your flight takes off from an EU airport, even if you are not flying on an EU airline. If however you are only landing in an EU airport, you can only claim if you are flying on an EU airline.

Click here to find more about claiming flight delay compensation and how we can help.

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