European Flight Delays - Your Rights

Published on 10/6/2008 in Holidays in Spain

Flight delayedAs the summer invasion of holiday makers draws to its close we can now relax back into our normal way of life. As some of our friends and families are back in the U.K. I thought it might be an idea to make everyone aware of some of the E.U rules on flight delays and cancellations. For those who like to browse the web the full text can be found at European Regulations (EC) 261/2004 (It is only 7 pages of small print!)

However as a short summary the Regulations state that all Airlines flying within the E.U. must adhere to these rules and can not opt out even if they are a non European Airline.

The rules state minimum rights for passengers who:

(a)     are denied boarding against their will,
(b)     have their flight cancelled
(c)     have their flight delayed

For example if your flight is delayed for 2 hours  on a short haul flight or 3 hours on a flight of between 1500 kms and 3500 kms you are entitled to:- two free telephone calls,  telex or fax messages, or e-mails.

For a delay of over 2 hours you must be given a printed form showing your rights and the appropriate body to whom you can complain. Meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time. Hotel accommodation in cases where the flight is cancelled or delayed overnight. But more importantly 250€ for a short haul flight and 400€ for a flight over 1500kms. Even for a delay of 3 hours!

Any money/voucher given at the airport can not be given as a full settlement if it is less than the amount stated above. If you do accept anything this will be treated under the Act as a partial settlement even though your airline might have said that it was a final or only payment. Obviously any delay or cancellation caused by severe weather conditions can allow the Airline to opt out but this is up to both parties to negotiate. However just because earlier planes were delayed and there is a knock-on effect this does not excuse the airline from not paying the correct compensation. These rules only apply to fixed wing aircraft so those of you who come here by helicopter, hot air balloon or even space shuttle are not covered by it.

If you are "bumped" the Act sets out what the airline has to offer. For those of you who are not familiar with this term it is when the flight is overbooked and everyone turns up and there are not enough seats on the plane. I understand that asking to sit on the pilots lap is not an option! Rather than copy the wording here, I suggest you read the Act.

Interestingly, an interpretation of the wording is that children should be treated under Article 11 which is about "persons with reduced mobility or special needs" when there is a delay, denial or cancellation.

In Article 15 it states that airlines can not have a restrictive clause in their booking to limit your rights under this Act. If they do and you accept their offer, if any, you are entitled to pursue your claim through the courts even if you have signed a "full and final settlement" letter which is less than you are entitled to under this Act.

It has been stated that the cost to the airlines of complying with the rules would only add about £1.50 per ticket so there is no excuse for some airlines blatantly disregarding the Law.

As an example of bad practice by an airline, on the 9th August a flight from Gatwick to Alicante was delayed by approximately 4 hours. They only offered the passengers a £3.00 voucher for food and refreshments. Nothing else! No form setting out the passengers rights. Also this particular airline tried the old story of, we do no know what is happening and there will only be a 1 hour delay. However, at that same time, the family here in Spain looked up the arrival time on and there it stated that the plane would be about 3 and a half hours late. So the information was available to everyone but not the actual airline staff, interesting! As a formal claim is being submitted to the airline for compensation I  do not want to divulge their name, yet!

The Act does not specify a timescale for making claims so if you or your family were delayed, denied boarding or have your flight cancelled you can still claim. Another interesting point of law is that if you make a claim in the Small Claims Court in England then it does not matter who wins as the loser does not have to pay the legal fees of the winner. As a thought, if you are claiming in the region of £650 and the defendant has a lawyer then that lawyer will be charging their time including travelling at, say £150 per hour. So even if the defendant wins and does not have to pay you your £650 he might have spent more on the lawyer. Is that called false economy?

A small word of advice, whenever you are flying take a copy of the Regulations with you or at least a note of the Act and the minimum action that has to be carried out by the airline. These are; Article 7, Article 9 and Article 14 and if you have a problem show these to the airline staff and you will be amazed how well you will be treated.

Written by: Stephen Levi

About the author:About the author:  I am now living in Spain on the Costa Calida having retired a few years ago. I frequently travel between Spain and the U.K. so this information is vital.

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Marksfish said:
Friday, October 10, 2008 @ 4:52 PM

From the Ryanair website, which goes to show that not every delay is covered by this regulation:

Ryanair, Europe’s largest low fares airline, today (6th Oct) welcomed the decision of Simmern Court in Germany to dismiss a passenger’s compensation claim after Ryanair was forced to cancel a flight due to unsafe weather conditions in Jerez in October last year.

The German court found that bad weather prevented Ryanair from landing safely and represented extraordinary circumstances which were beyond the control of the airline under EU261 regulations.

The passenger, who was seeking compensation of over €1,600 as a result of this forced cancellation, had his claim dismissed by Simmern Court. The passenger must now settle all costs associated with the case, including Ryanair’s costs.

Welcoming the finding, Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara said:

“The decision of the court was in accordance with the provisions of EU261. We understand that cancelled flights can be frustrating. However, we must always make decisions which prioritise the safety of our passengers, crew and aircraft.

“In this case bad weather made it unsafe to land at Jerez and we had no alternative but to cancel the return flight. We welcome this decision which clarifies the fact that EU261 compensation claims do not arise in cases where bad weather forces airlines to put passenger safety ahead of passenger convenience”.

pfduffy said:
Tuesday, October 7, 2008 @ 2:57 PM

I thought you might like to know about my experience this week returning to England from Murcia.
Flying Ryanair to Stansted, in appalling weather conditions the pilot tried twice to land both attempts were aborted and the plane was diverted to Luton. Once we landed at Luton there was some debate as to whether the plane would refuel and go back to Stansted or we would leave the plane and be bused back to Stansted. After an hour of waiting we were told to leave the aircraft and get on coaches. This we did but there were no coaches! There was no Ryanair representative and no assistance. we spoke to the Airport Manager who attempted to find out what was going on and after he had the 'run around' we were informed that Ryanair had abandoned us and that we must find our own way eaither back to Stansted or our onward journey. It seems that we were told there were buses just so as to get us to get off the aircraft. The inference being that we should have remained on the plane and demanded to be taken back to Stansted. Ryanair's conditions indicate that any such out of pocket experiences should be taken up with your own travel insurance. with usually a £50 excess this is just not generally worthwhile.
So beware of Ryanair, you too could be dumped at almost any airport they fancy.

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