It used to be that severe delays and flight cancellations went unacknowledged or simply swept under the rug by airlines. Lengthy reply times from customer service and bemusing tangles of law and bureaucracy meant that passengers either got frustrated and stopped trying to claim compensation for their flights, or were apathetic to the cause from the start. This all stopped in 2004 when a regulation of EU law came into effect. It is called Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004 and states that if passengers are denied boarding, miss their flight or connecting flights, or are delayed egregiously through fault of the airline, then the airline in question must provide compensation and assistance to the passengers.
Compensation of All Types
This compensation takes a number of different forms. If a passenger is delayed throughout the night and would otherwise have to sleep in the airport, then the airline must pay for a hotel room as well as transport to and from the hotel. On top of this, the airline also has to pay for or provide vouchers for meals which the passenger would have eaten in this time. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. If the delay is over three hours long and the distance between the departure and arrival points is over 1,500km, then airline has to provide money compensation. The exact amount is a tiered calculation and depends on a combination of the duration of delay as well as length of travel, however it begins at €250 and is capped at €600. It doesn’t matter which airline the passenger has booked through either – whether it’s budget or premium, EasyJet or Virgin Atlantic, every airline is law-bound to pay.
Passing the Baton
Of course, given that airlines have to potentially fork out thousands of Euros per delayed or cancelled flight, it makes sense they would do everything in their power to legally circumvent paying this compensation. For that reason it’s often difficult to get a reply back from airlines when passengers reach out to them for assistance. Many airlines typically take up to six weeks to respond to query, during which time passengers may be disheartened or lethargic and either give up trying to claim compensation or simply forget altogether.
The Formation of Claim Companies
In response to this law being passed, and seeing that many passengers weren’t collecting the compensation that they were legally entitled to, a number of different companies formed in an effort to better ensure that disgruntled travellers were paid the full amount they were owed in a timely manner. These companies, such as AirHelp, are called claim companies, and since their inception have provided information and assistance to passengers who weren’t sure whether or not they would be able to claim. They’ve also helped process thousands of claims and saved passengers millions of Euros.
Time is Money
Because time is so valuable to flight passengers regardless of who they are, the introduction of EC 261 as well as the proliferation of claim companies has means that airlines have to be even more stringent when it comes to business practices. In effect, the combination of the two phenomena has helped to improve airline standards and punctuality. While delays will always happen, it will be interesting to see how the relationship between airlines and claim companies continues to develop in the future.