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Unexpected flight disruptions are never convenient and can lead to many troubles. Fortunately you may be entitled to compensation as the air passenger rights consists of provisions which requires the airlines to give care to customers in the event that they are faced with a delay or cancellation. Flight Reclaim makes resources available to you which will give you the knowledge and information required to identify whether you have an eligible claim and we will also undertake the entire process for you.

 

Understanding the Law

Air passenger rights laws are not straight forward, this is mainly due to the nature of the claim and the variables which effect the eligibility of a claim. At first glance many of the laws may seem contradictory and the airlines often try to mask your rights rather than being transparent about what the law entails.

Airlines openly contest the recent EU legislation. They tend to reject most claims by invoking ‘extraordinary circumstances’. Even though the EUCJ has ordered them to pay compensation on several occasions, many airlines still refuse. They often bank on the fact that the individual air passenger is likely to shy away from the hassle of challenging a rejection in court.

Delayed Flights

How much you can claim from the airline depends on the distance of your flight. If you were delayed by three hours or more, you could be eligible for the following amounts:

Regardless of destination of airline, any flight which is scheduled to depart from an EU airport is covered by EU 261/2004. This makes any passenger on such a flight eligible for up to £540 if their flight is delayed by 3 hours or more.

EU 261/2004 also covers any inbound flight to the EU if the airline is an EU-based carrier. As above, if any passenger is delayed by more than 3 hours to their scheduled destination they could be eligible to up to £540

For example:

Manchester – New York operated by Virgin
Berlin – London operated by Delta
Miami – Frankfurt operated by Lufthansa

The following, however, would not be covered by EU 261:

Miami – Frankfurt operated by Delta

Cancelled Flights

How much you can claim from the airline depends on the distance you were supposed to travel on your cancelled flight. Depending on when you were informed of your cancelled flight, if your replacement flight departed one hour or more ahead of schedule or arrived three hours or more after schedule, then you may be entitled to the following refunds:

FAQ-Table

Any cancelled flight which was scheduled to depart from an EU airport is covered by EU 261, regardless of airline or destination. The airline must offer you a replacement flight if it cancels your original flight.

Depending on when you were informed of the cancellation, different criteria apply. If you were informed:

  • 14 days or more ahead of time: No compensation is due, but you may choose to be reimbursed for the full value of the airfare.
  • 7-14 days ahead of time: If the replacement flight offered departs 2 hours or more early, or lands 4 hours or more after schedule, you are entitled to the compensations described in FAQ 1 depending on the distance of the itinerary.
  • 0-7 days ahead of time: If the replacement flight offered departs 1 hour or more early, or lands 2 hours or more after schedule, you are entitled to the compensations described in FAQ 1 depending on the distance of the itinerary.

 

Additionally, the compensation can be reduced by 50% if rerouting involves a delay on arrival of not more than 2, 3 or 4 hours based on the respective distances as described in FAQ 1.

The following hypothetical itineraries would entitle the passenger to up to £540 if, barring extraordinary circumstances, the cancelled flight met the above criteria:

Madrid – Berlin operated by Lufthansa

Berlin – New York operated by Delta

Miami – Berlin operated by Lufthansa

The following, however, would not be covered by EU 261:

Miami – Berlin operated by Delta

Missed Connections

How much you can claim from the airline depends on the distance travelled over the course of your entire itinerary. If you reached your final destination with a delay of three hours or more, then you may be entitled to the following refunds:

FAQ-Table

Missed connections covered by EU 261/2004 are those that are caused by a cancellation or delay on a flight which is individually under EU jurisdiction. These include all flights out of any EU airport, regardless of airline or destination, and flights into the EU operated by an EU carrier.

If you missed a connection and reached your final destination with a delay of three hours or more, you could be eligible for up to £540.

The following hypothetical itineraries would entitle the passenger to up to £540 barring extraordinary circumstances which would make the airline exempt from compensation payments.

Berlin – Frankfurt – London operated by Lufthansa, if a delay or cancellation on the Berlin – Frankfurt leg caused the passenger to reach London with a delay of three hours or more
Berlin – London – New York operated by Delta, if a delay or cancellation on the Berlin – London leg caused the passenger to reach New York with a delay of three hours or more
Miami – Frankfurt – Madrid operated by Iberia, If a delay or cancellation on the Miami – Frankfurt leg caused the passenger to reach Madrid with a delay of three hours or more

The following, however, would not be covered by EU 261/2004:

Miami – New York – Frankfurt (regardless of airline), if the delay or cancellation occurs on the Miami – New York leg, as it is fully out of EU jurisdiction

Frankfurt – New York – Toronto (regardless of airline), if the delay or cancellation occurs on the New York – Toronto leg, as it is fully out of EU jurisdiction

Denied Boarding

How much you can claim from the airline depends on the distance of your original itinerary. If you were involuntarily denied boarding due to overbooking, then you may be entitled to the following refunds:

FAQ-Table

Cases of involuntary denied boarding due to overbooking covered by EU 261/2004 are those where the flight departs from any EU airport, regardless of airline or destination, as well as flights into the EU operated by an EU carrier.

Involuntary denied boarding due to overbooking on the following hypothetical flights would entitle you to up to £540*.

Berlin – Frankfurt operated by Lufthansa
Berlin – London operated by Delta
Miami – Frankfurt operated by Lufthansa

The following, however, would not be covered by EU 261:

Miami – Frankfurt operated by Delta

* Estimate of fluctuating value of €600

How long do I have to claim?

According to EU Regulation 261/2004, you can claim back as far as 6 years for any of the above mentioned flight disruptions.

Breakthrough Rulings

February 2004, Regulation 261/2004 (European Commission)

The European Parliament and European Commission set up this Regulation to establish rules on the criteria and conditions for flight cancellations and denied boarding, as well as passenger entitlements when the airline is unable to accommodate them in the class they had booked. However, there was no reference to delayed flights in the 2004 document. The Regulation came into effect in February 2005.

December 2008, Wallentin-Hermann versus Alitalia (Court of Justice)

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) concluded that any technical issues in aircraft maintenance should not be categorised as “extraordinary circumstances” that would enable carriers to avoid paying passengers compensation for cancelled flights. This decision closed the loophole that previously allowed airlines to abuse passengers through a frivolous interpretation of “technical or extraordinary circumstances.”

November 2009, Sturgeon versus Condor Flugdienst GmbH (Court of Justice)

The CJEU ruled in the Sturgeon case that compensation should also apply to long delays of more than three hours. Despite there not being express provision for this in 261/2004, it was decided that Article 8 allowed for it. The Sturgeon judgment was received badly by carriers like British Airways, Lufthansa and easyJet, who mounted a legal challenge, complaining that the CJEU had moved the goalposts.

October 2012, joined cases: (a) Nelson versus Lufthansa and (b) the Queen/TUI Travel/IATA/British Airways/easyJet versus CAA (Court of Justice)

The CJEU reconfirmed that passengers’ whose flights arrive more than three hours late may be entitled to compensation for the delay in line with EC Regulation 261/2004, unless extraordinary circumstances, outside the airline’s control, delayed the flight. It also ruled that the requirement to compensate passengers for delayed flights is compatible with the Montreal Convention.
The good news for consumers is that the airline industry is almost certainly stuck with this decision, because rulings from the Grand Chamber of the CJEU cannot be appealed. The judgment will likely trigger a deluge of compensation claims from delayed passengers whose applications had been put on hold by the English courts and other national courts in the EU pending the outcome of the challenge to the 2009 Sturgeon judgment.
So, TUI’s case has really helped to clarify the situation for consumers and the industry. Like other bodies across Europe, the CAA was forced to update its Passenger Portal (the dedicated advice section on its website) to spell out the rights of travellers.

September 2013, Jeff and Joyce Halsall versus Thomas Cook (Staffordshire, UK)

The UK’s landmark case is that of Jeff and Joyce Halsall, from Kidsgrove, who first took Thomas Cook to court in 2009. A judge initially threw out the claim after the holiday company, which operates its own airline, said the delay was caused by an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ outside its control. In fact, the flight, on October 31st, 2009, was delayed by a mechanical fault.
Mr Halsall later appealed against this decision after finding out about the European legislation. The CAA admitted Halsall’s eventual legal victory in 2013 appeared to be the first in the UK to successfully exercise Regulation (EC) 261/2004.

February 2013, Air France vs. Heinz Gerke Folkerts (Court of Justice)

This is the CJEU case that decided that if a passenger is delayed on a connecting flight less than three hours, but still arrives at their final destination more than three hours late, they are entitled to compensation under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004.
Mrs Luz-Tereza Folkerts held a reservation to fly from Bremen to Asunción in Paraguay, via Paris and São Paulo. The departure of the Air France flight from Bremen to Paris was delayed; the aircraft took off around two and a half hours after the scheduled departure time. Consequently, Folkerts missed her connecting flight in Paris for São Paulo, also operated by Air France, which then re-booked her on to a later flight to the same destination. Because of her late arrival in São Paulo, Folkerts missed the original connecting flight to Asunción and arrived there 11 hours after the arrival time originally scheduled.

Statute of limitation

In November 2012, the EUCJ ruled that the compensation measure laid down in Articles 5 and 7 of Regulation No 261/2004 falls “outside the scope of the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions.” Consequently, the two-year limitation referred to in Article 29 of the Warsaw Convention and in Article 35 of the Montreal Convention does not apply. Instead, the time limits ought to be determined by the national laws of each EU member state.

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