Better Late Than Never 

Nov. 4, 2014

Jetting to Europe and worried about delays?

A screen displays delayed flights at Gatwick Airport

Unlike in the U.S., airlines in Europe are now required by law to pay passengers in cash for prolonged flight delays.

Last Friday’s ruling by the European Court of Justice that flights arriving over three hours later than their scheduled time – defined by the time when at least one aircraft door is open, not when wheels touch the ground – means passengers can seek compensation anywhere in the range of $160 to $800 per person.  This latest ruling could cost the airlines billions. 

The delay must be the fault of the airline.

So strikes and bad weather won’t qualify, but if your flight was disrupted because of equipment malfunctions or the airline not being prepared for bad weather while other flights
ran on time, then you have the right to pursue a claim.


Previously, passengers had their claims for compensation denied because the airline contended that the flight did arrive on time, based on when the aircraft landed or came to a standstill.
But as FlyersRights members know, a lot of waiting can happen between the time a plane lands, taxis, and a door finally opens.

U.S. and Canadian citizens benefit from new EU flight delay compensation laws

The law provides for US and Canadian citizens and entitles them to up to $800 in compensation from the carrier when they are delayed on routes between North America and Europe.

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 (including US airlines), or is flying into Europe on 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.

Since 2009, EU rules have stated that passengers who reach their destination more than three hours late can claim up to Euro 600 plus expenses, per person, if the delay is within the airline’s control.
However, the airlines have stonewalled thousands of passengers from getting the cash they are entitled to, because airlines often refuse to pay out even when the regulator rules against them. While most customers give up at this point, some have gone to court. 

 Underscores How Badly The System Is Rigged Against US Consumers

Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights said, “The Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights would help, but the US is well behind the EU and Canada in providing compensation for excessive flight delays. Yet, somehow EU airlines offer cheaper fares within Europe.”

“Transatlantic fares are at record levels due to DOT sanctioned alliances,exempt from price fixing antitrust laws and domestic fares are also soaring”, he said.

The ramifications of this decision are significant. For example, about 2.6 million passengers fly from London to New York every year, of which approximately 21 thousand passengers would be directly affected by the regulation.

Collectively, they would be eligible for compensation of around $17 million.

In light of the court’s decision, the website Flightright is recommending passengers take the following steps whenever it looks like their flight will be significantly delayed:

  1. If the delay occurs at the departing airport, ask a gate agent what is the cause of the delay. The weather? A technical issue? Crew staffing problems? Note the reason the airline provides, and when it was given. Document any other pertinent information provided by airport or airline staff.
  2. Record the time that you boarded the aircraft, when the aircraft pushed back from the gate, and when it took off.
  3. During the flight, ask a member of the flight or cabin crew if they know the cause of the delay. Document any information provided, who provided it, and the time.
  4. Upon arrival at the destination airport, note when the aircraft landed, when it came to a standstill, and when it docked at the gate or parking area.
  5. Document the exact time that the first door was opened.

According to Flightright, technical problems with an aircraft, bad weather, and delays associated with crew staffing problems are the most common reasons why passengers claim compensation.

They Fought The Law And The Law Won  

Last week’s judgments follow a six-year battle between EU airlines and passengers.

It was Jet2 airline that brought the whole edifice crashing down, reported
Up to that point, the airlines had been fighting a generally effective guerrilla war in small claims court.

This certainly deterred most passengers from cashing in on their legitimate legal entitlement for delayed flights, and accordingly worked in the favor of the airlines.

But rather than pay out one passenger, Ron Huzar‘s, small claim, Jet2 decided to bet the farm (and indeed all the other airlines’ farms) by doubling down.  

If the airline had won in the Court of Appeal, the protection afforded byRegulation 261/04 would have been seriously eroded.

But if they lost, they would create a binding legal precedent that would ensure an unambiguous and definitive interpretation of the law in favor of the passenger.

So, well done, Jet2. You may be a fairly unremarkable airline, but you’ve done something truly special for EU passengers. This victory is your very own Halloween. did not wish to provide a comment.

Experts predict this victory will open the floodgates for claims from passengers who suffer delays in the future.
Your Letters 
(From last week’s newsletter, Stocking Stuffers)
Dear FlyersRights:
I read your newsletter this morning and someone sent an email disagreeing with the mandatory quarantine for people coming from West Africa.  I totally agree with this type of move to stop this terrible outbreak.
I am flying twice before the end of the year; once through Dallas and once staying in Dallas.  I’ve already made plans to stay at my home for 3 weeks when I return to protect my family and friends in case there is someone joy riding through the skies that has been exposed to Ebola.
I don’t  understand these medical personnel that have seen what this can do, understand how it has affected the US, and no one can guarantee it’s not an air-borne illness (I don’t care what the so-called experts say-they aren’t sure). 

Specifically, the doctor that went on his merry way to bowling alleys, etc. and the nurse that caused an uproar because she has to stay home for 3 weeks.  Good going New Jersey!  I wish all states would do the same.

Thank you,

Dear FlyersRights:

I generally support FR. But, this is the USA and companies are entitled to make a profit. If the prices get obscene, low cost carriers will arrive.

I do not like paying high prices any more than the next guy. if they are too high, I do not go.

Compare today’s prices with those of 1972 and adjust for inflation. Today is cheaper.

On the other hand, if they keep me on a plane against my will, I’ll hang ’em by their “toenails.” The “we’ll lose our place argument” is pure hogwash.

Dear FlyersRights:

I used to fly for a living. have not done so in years because of the awful way passengers are treated. We need to grow a pair and demand that the airlines remember who pays their salaries. A strike by only 10% of the flying public during this holiday season will get their attention! 
Forget what is stated above. We now have a few generations of AMERICANS that will stand for anything!

Dear FlyersRights:

As you say, profits are way up in the airline industry and yet commercial flyers and employees are all getting squeezed.  The market economy is supposed to lead to a competition in which fares gets lower and service gets better.  In fact the reverse is happening.  Until ordinary people finally agree that capitalism without regulation is too brutal to be acceptable, we will continue to see this process, not only in the airlines but in other industries.

The government is supposed to intervene between the companies and us consumers, is supposed to tame and soften the worst aspects of this economic system, but because the corporate lobbyists outweigh us in power and influence, our government representatives and departments are failing to do that job.  We should not be eschewing government and making it the enemy; we should be demanding that it serve us as it should.

We need to organize to get the money out of our elections, make our representatives beholden to us, not the lobbyists, and we need to support our now very weak unions which are trying to keep the floor from getting ever lower and making the lives of working people and ordinary consumers more and more difficult.
Thank you for all you do to inform us about the aviation industry.

Dear FlyersRights:

The T-shirt arrived today! I think it will fit perfectly. Will wear it proudly on our next trip (on LUFTHANSA *:) happy) from Munich to USA. Here’s hoping for no delays, no air-rage incidents, and no Ebola scares.
Thanks again for all you do!!!

Folks, there is still time to get your FlyersRights shirts!

We’ve got FlyersRights buttons for donations over $50, and t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts for gifts over $100 –or just send us a donation!

We need your help!

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