As Carriers Strive to Synchronize Connecting Flights and Make Aircraft Last Longer, Technical Glitches Are One of the Leading Causes of Flights Delayed More Than Three Hours; But for Most Passengers, the Cause of Long Delays Remains a Mystery; When Should Passengers File a Claim for Delayed Flight Compensation?
flightright, the company that fights for the compensation owed to passengers when their flights are delayed or cancelled, recently surveyed thousands of its flight-delayed customers to understand the principle causes of flight delays of three hours or longer. While technical malfunctions were the primary cause, and weather was sometimes a factor, many passengers surveyed said their airline never provided a specific reason for the delay.
"Perhaps the most frustrating thing about sitting in a terminal or a plane while you''re waiting for your journey to start or continue is not knowing why you''ve been delayed," says Marek Janetzke, managing director of Berlin-based flightright. "We''re always surprised by how many people have suffered substantial flight delays, and yet don''t know the reason for the delay. Perhaps the airline doesn''t want to admit responsibility? In many cases, we will pursue the airline and successfully win compensation if the passenger is departing from an airport within the European Union, or is flying into Europe on a carrier that is based in the European Union."
The European Air Passenger Rights Regulation 261/2004 and subsequent decisions of the European Court established minimum rights for passengers when they are denied boarding against their will or if their flight is cancelled or delayed. The law covers U.S. and Canadian citizens and residents who are delayed on routes between the North America and Europe -- these travelers are eligible for up to $800 in compensation from the carrier. According to the flightright survey, technical problems with an aircraft, bad weather, and delays associated with crew staffing problems are the most common reasons that a passenger is delayed. Are all these valid reasons to pursue a claim?
"For technical problems on the aircraft, the airline is obliged to pay compensation because it is its responsibility to ensure that aircraft are properly maintained and that replacement parts are available to remedy technical problems," says Janetzke. "But if the airline does not tell the traveller why the flight is delayed, many people assume it''s just a normal part of travel, and don''t ask for compensation. European law recognizes that long flight delays are a cause of enormous trouble and convenience to passengers. And emerging case law covers a wide variety of incidents -- we are experts in applying the law to our customers'' unique circumstances."
While the law is quite clear about the conditions under which compensation is payable, interpreting the law is an area in which flightright has deep experience. Here are some ''edge cases'' that illustrate the importance of understanding your rights.
1. Airlines are obliged to pay compensation if an airplane is late or a flight is cancelled due to a technical defect. This is because it is the airline''s responsibility to ensure that its equipment is well maintained and ready to fly.
2. Airlines are under no obligation to provide compensation if they can prove that the cancellation or delay is caused by ''exceptional circumstances'' over which they had no control. But your chances are better if you can demonstrate that the airline did not adequately prepare for the prevailing weather conditions. For example, if the flight has a lengthy delay because de-icer was not available at that gate, the passenger may be eligible for compensation -- especially if other airlines were able to depart on schedule at that same time.
3. The law states that the airline must inform passengers that a flight has been cancelled at least 14 days before the planned departure date. If the airline does not comply with this time restriction, the passenger can request compensation.
4. If the first segment is delayed and a connecting flight is missed, can travelers claim compensation? For these cases it is important that the two flight segments have been booked together and as connected flights. The delay time of the first flight is not relevant and can be less than three hours. A claim for compensation can be filed when the arrival at the final destination has a delay of more than three hours. The traveler may claim a compensation claim for the entire route.
In order to receive compensation from an airline, the flight cancellation or delay must meet the following criteria. First, the flight must be operated by an EU-regulated airline. This means the passenger is either departing from any airport within the EU on any airline, or is flying into Europe with an EU-based airline. In addition, both the distance of the flight and the duration of the delay affect the amount of compensation passengers may be able to claim. This can range from 125 - 600 euros ($160 - $800) per person.
Flightright is the flight delay compensation service with extensive experience in dealing with airlines and in winning complicated cases around the world. Flightright offers airline passengers travelers a simple and stress-free way to get the compensation they deserve, with minimal effort on their part. International travelers whose flights have been delayed can get hundreds of dollars in compensation just by filing their claim at .