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Airline passengers losing billions compensation

LanguedocLiving, May 1

Up to 85% of airline passengers do not know their rights in the event of a delay or cancellation, and it could be costing them up to €600 each per flight, and billions collectively, a new study has shown.

A little-known European directive, the EC 261 law, allows for compensation of up to €600 per person per flight if a journey is sufficiently late, or is cancelled altogether.

Yet, a study by compensation claim website AirHelp polled 7,000 representative European travellers and found that 85% of them were not aware of the full extent of their compensation rights.

This lack of knowledge is costing around 13 million affected passengers - those who would be eligible for compensation - up to €5 billion collectively per year, AirHelp said.

The study also found that two thirds of passengers had not been explicitly made aware of their rights - by the airline or otherwise - last time they were delayed or had a cancelled flight.

Only half of the passengers asked had ever claimed compensation in the event of delays or cancellations, with 42% saying they did not know their rights, and 24% saying they did not know how to go about claiming.

Over a third (36%) even said that they did not think they had a right to compensation at all.

Henrik Zillmer, CEO of AirHelp, said: “It is clear that airline passengers still feel powerless when faced with airline companies, and that many of them miss out on compensation that is due to them, because they do not try to claim.”

Claim compensation if your flight's delayed or cancelled

If you booked a flight that departed from Europe or was with a European airline, you might have rights under EU law if your flight is delayed or cancelled.

For the EU law to apply, you'll need to have departed from the UK, European Union (EU), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.

If your flight’s delayed for 2 or more hours

Your airline have to give you:

- food and drink
- access to phone calls and emails
- accommodation if you’re delayed overnight - and journeys between the airport and the hotel

The airline should give you vouchers to get these things at the airport. Ask someone who works for the airline if you’re not offered any help.

If they don’t give you help at the airport, keep receipts for expenses and try to claim from the airline later. Airlines only pay for ‘reasonable’ expenses - you won’t get money back for alcohol, expensive meals or luxury hotels.

If your flight’s delayed for 3 or more hours

You already have a legal right to food and drink, phone calls and accommodation - you get this when the flight is delayed for 2 hours or more.

You’re also entitled to get compensation if the delay is the airline’s responsibility - for example, if they didn’t get enough bookings or there was a technical fault.

You won’t get compensation if it was delayed because of something like bad weather or a strike.

You’re entitled to a set amount of compensation depending on:

- the distance of the flight
- the length of the delay - how late you are getting to your destination
- whether you're flying to an EU or non-EU destination

You have to claim from the airline to get compensation. Search their website or call their customer services department.

If your flight’s delayed for 5 hours or more

You don’t have to take the flight if it’s delayed for 5 hours or more. It doesn’t matter whose responsibility the delay is.

If you don’t take the flight the airline legally has to give you all of the following:

- a full refund for the flight
- a full refund for other flights from the airline that you won’t use in the same booking, eg an onward or return flight
- if you’re part-way through a journey, a flight back to the airport you originally departed from
- food and drink
- access to phone calls and emails
- accommodation if you’re delayed overnight, as well as journeys between the airport and the hotel

Talk to someone from the airline as soon as you decide you don’t want to take the flight.

If you do take the flight

You can claim up to €600 in compensation if the delay is the airline’s responsibility - depending on the distance and destination of your flight. It might have been your airline's fault if there was a technical flight, or they overbooked.

You won’t get compensation if it was delayed because of something like bad weather or a strike.

If your flight is cancelled

You have the legal right to either:

- a full refund - including other flights from the airline that you won’t use in the same booking such as onward or return flights
- a replacement flight to get you to your destination

Ask for a refund or replacement at the airport if you can. If not, you can claim from the airline later.

You also have a legal right to:

- help with costs - if the cancellation delays you 2 or more hours
- compensation - if you’d be delayed 2 or more hours by the replacement flight offered

If you get a replacement flight

The airline legally has to help you with things you need while you’re waiting at the airport for your replacement flight. This includes:

- food and drink
- access to phone calls and emails
- accommodation if you’re delayed overnight, as well as journeys between the airport and the hotel

The airline should give you vouchers to get these things at the airport. Ask someone who works for the airline if you’re not offered anything.

If they don’t give you help at the airport, keep receipts for your expenses and try to claim from the airline later. Airlines only pay for ‘reasonable’ expenses - you won’t get money back for alcohol, expensive meals or luxury hotels.

Claim compensation

You’re legally entitled to get compensation if the delay is the airline’s responsibility and either:

- the replacement flight delays your arrival by 2 or more hours
- your flight was cancelled at least 7 days before departure

The amount of compensation you’re entitled to depends on:

- when the flight was cancelled
- the distance of the flight - check the flight distance on the Web Flyer website
- the departure and arrival times of the rescheduled flight

If your flight was cancelled less than 7 days before departure:

Claim from the airline to get compensation or use your own travel insurance if it covers cancellations.

Claim from the airline

Contact the airline – this needs to be the airline operating the flight, even if you booked it through another airline. The airline’s customer services department will usually help. Be ready to give all your flight details and booking reference numbers.

Write your claim – say what went wrong and what you want the airline to give you. The Civil Aviation Authority has information about how to write a good claim and you can download a template letter from the Which? website. Include copies (not originals) of your tickets and any receipts.

Keep records – keep copies of your claim and any response from the airline. Take notes if you speak to anyone from the airline - this could be useful if you decide to take your claim further.

Source Citizens Advice, The Connexion.

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