As 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 AENA.es 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.