In a recent case, British Airways tried to avoid paying delayed flight compensation to a couple by attributing the delay to a medical matter. However, the Captain of the flight had already told passengers the delay was caused by a technical fault.
The couple involved – Anne and Mark Northen – were heading for a 17 day holiday in Asia that began in Thailand, but experienced a delay to their flight. They were held up at Heathrow Airport, landing in Bangkok more than four hours after the scheduled arrival time.
The couple, who are retired teachers, were aware that under EU rules they could claim compensation for the delay. On returning to the UK in February, they made their claim for 300 euros each. British Airways rejected the claim and insisted that the delay was caused by a medical problem. It offered the explanation that on the plane’s previous flight to London someone had fallen ill and this had affected the departure of the Northen’s flight. If their explanation had been accepted, the airline would not have had to pay out a penny in compensation.
A confusing email exchange followed between BA’s customer service personnel and the Northens. The emails did not offer any conclusion to the matter and no compensation was offered either. The Northens decided to instruct a lawyer at which point BA paid them £233 each – several months after the conclusion of their holiday.
The couple, who live in Hertfordshire, were happy to receive the compensation but felt let down by BA. They believe the airline deliberately attempted to frustrate and mislead them in the hope they would drop their case. Had the airline have paid up when they were first contacted, the Northens would not have had to instruct a solicitor and would not have lost a large portion of their compensation. However, their experience is not an isolated case. It is well known that airlines will do anything possible to wriggle their way out of paying compensation, even when they know they are liable. Many airlines will not pay out until court action is threatened.
From January to April this year, almost 3,000 flights leaving the UK were delayed by three hours or more, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.
Flight delay compensation claims
If you are flying from or to an EU airport and your flight is delayed by three hours or more – or cancelled altogether – you will be entitled to compensation. The amount depends on the delay and the length of the journey. The minimum amount is 250 euros – regardless of how much you paid for your ticket. The maximum amount (for journeys delayed 4 hours or more where the journey is greater than 3,500 kilometres) is 600 euros.
Where the flight is delayed by two hours or more, the airline also has obligations – for example, to offer refreshments and phone calls. After five hours, you can cancel the trip and demand a refund and a flight home, if you want to.
Read more about flight delay compensation claims and how we can help.