Due to my frequent air travels, I know that there are sometimes unforeseen situations at airports. Delayed flight journey happens quite often and it’s good to know how to deal with them.
As I wrote in my post about my trip to Spain, my flight from Porto to Madrid was delayed by over 4.5 hours. This has put me in discomfort, anger and fatigue. I was also exposed to additional costs (the need to buy a meal or a hot drink at the airport). After arriving in Madrid in the middle of the night, I could not use the airport shuttle bus (5 Euro price), but I was forced to take a taxi (35 Euro).
Knowing my rights, I was aware that I am entitled to compensation for a flight delay longer than 3 hours.
Delayed flight journey – EU regulations
The rights of airline passengers in the European Union are regulated by Regulation 261/2004 / EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of February 11, 2004. (WE261). It is a law that imposes an obligation on airlines to pay compensation to those passengers whose flights have been significantly delayed, or cancelled, or passengers were denied the right to board (overbooking).
EC Regulation 261 applies to most flights within Europe. It covers not only the EU airspace but also Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the so-called ‘Outermost territories’ (i.e. Martinique, Canary Islands).
To apply for compensation, all the below criteria must be met:
- the flight was delayed by more than 3 hours
- the trip took place to, from or through the European destination city
- the flight has not been delayed due to exceptional circumstances (i.e. extreme weather conditions, political instability, strikes, security risks or unexpected flight safety shortcomings).
Value of the compensation
According to the EU Regulation, a delay occurs when a flight is delayed beyond its scheduled departure time:
- for flights of up to 1500 km (like my example), when a flight is delayed by more than 3 hours, you are entitled to receive compensation of 250 Euro. As an example, connections such as Warsaw – Brussels, Porto-Madrid, London-Paris
- for flights between 1.500 km and 3.500 km as well as intra-community flights of more than 1.500 km, you are entitled to receive compensation of 400 Euro. As an example, connections such as Warsaw- Barcelona, Brussels-Athens, Frankfurt-Lisbon
- all other flights (mostly outside of the EU) – 600 Euro. As an example, destinations from Europe to Beijing, Tokyo, New York, Singapore, Vancouver
When your flight is expected to have a long delay, passengers are entitled to receive care while waiting. Unfortunately, this is not a common rule, and only the biggest airlines follow them. This care includes meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time (airlines give food vouchers which can be used in dedicated places at the airport). This care can also include hotel accommodation and transfer costs when you have to stay for a night.
I was twice in a situation where I had to stay for a night. Once with LOT Polish Airlines (flight from Brussels to Warsaw), and the second time with Czech Airlines (flight from Prague to Warsaw). In both cases, I have received hotel vouchers (4* hotels) and taxi return vouchers.
Flight delays – important to know
Attention! To be able to claim compensation from the airline, we must be able to prove that our delay took place. Remember that compensation is paid for arrival delay at your destination, not for your delay in departure. This is very important because it can happen that your departure was delayed by 3 hours and several minutes, but during your flight, the pilot saved a part of the lost time. In this situation, the delay on departure may be more than 3 hours, but on arrival, the delay may be shorter – therefore compensation will not be paid.
What is the easiest way to prove that our arrival has been delayed? Immediately after your landing, please take a picture of the arrivals board with your flight number. On the board, you will find information about the scheduled time of your arrival and the actual one. Such a picture can be used as an ideal proof. When making a complaint, you can simply use your picture.
How get the compensation?
Big airlines: i.e. Lufthansa, KLM, LOT– have made their own application forms available to passengers, which can be found directly on their websites. It is to be expected here that “big market players” will not try to avoid their responsibility. It is also highly probable that they will carry out the entire procedure as efficiently as possible. I know, however, from my own experience that the delay of 2 hours and 58 minutes, is not eligible for the compensation, as a criterion of min. 3 hours must be met.
There is also an official EU form that can be sent to each of the carriers.
In the case of small airlines (i.e. my trip from Porto to Madrid), the reality is that, when talking about the complaint, the airline usually does everything to avoid such contact. It happens, however, that the airline answers passengers, letting them know that there will be no compensation.
In my case, it was the second scenario. I have received a nice email, where my airline replied that they only deal with delays over 5 hours, or in the case when the flight was cancelled. In the final explanation, I read that after all, I reached my destination, so the airline does not see any reason why I claim compensation for my 4,5h delay. As European Union regulations are in place over the airline’s internal regulations, I have asked professionals for help.
Who else can help us?
There are several private companies on the market (see list below), that can deal with this type of service. I started to work with the Air Help company. For now, it’s been 2 months since I complained about my arrival delay. The company Air Help keeps sending me regular information about the status of my claim. They have also confirmed that my compensation will be equal to 250 Euro. As it is a commercial company, at the end of the process they will take a commission of 63 Euro (25%). This form of service fully suits me. Having a risk of long discussions with the airline and a probable final failure, I chose a company that completely took over my case.
The Air Help company writes about itself: “Our goal is to make claiming compensation as easy and seamless as possible. We believe that this can be achieved by data and cutting-edge technology presented with a user-friendly website and intuitive mobile apps. “
I hope that they will succeed, my case will be successful, and my compensation will be paid 😊.
Airlines With The Best On-Time Records
At the beginning of 2018, the international daily magazine Forbes announced the ranking of the best on-time airlines in the world. The ranking below shows a list of TOP10 carriers. Some of them (bold) – are available in Europe. Some of them are so-called “low-cost carriers”, which means that a low price does not always mean a low standard of services or a high unpunctuality:
- airBaltic – 90.01%
- Hong Kong Airlines (available from London) – 88.83%
- Hawaiian Airlines – 87.24%
- Copa Airlines – 86.39%
- Qantas (available from London) – 86.18%
- Japan Airlines – 85.27%
- Vueling – 85.25%
- Jetstar Asia – 85.05%
- Skymark – 85%
- Aer Lingus – 84.46%
Additional major airlines with decent on-time records were Indian low-cost carrier IndiGo at 81.22%, SAS at 80.90%, LATAM at 79.39% and British Airways at 78.55%.
Among the world’s largest carriers, both of Japan’s major airlines, JAL and ANA, topped the list for punctuality, while European airlines like Air France and Lufthansa lagged around 76%. Those from mainland China posted dismal on-time percentages in the low 60% range. There is certainly a place for improvement!
Another interesting trend? Low-cost carriers including Volaris, Sky, GOL, Eurowings and Norwegian performed decently with on-time performances topping 80% in most cases.
Useful links and documents
- Skyscanner – what to do if your flight is cancelled or delayed
- List of the National Enforcement Bodies, that can help passengers in applying for compensation
- Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament
- Your Europe – detailed information and advice on your rights as an air passenger and how you can claim them.
- Online enquiry form for air passengers to obtain information on how to exercise their rights.
- EU complaint form for air passengers (available in 22 languages) which can be used by the passenger to lodge a complaint to the airline or competent National Enforcement Body