The tricks airlines use to avoid paying compensation

Date: 18 Mar 19

Being delayed in a foreign country is traumatic enough but when the airline refuses to help you it can get even more stressful.

If your flight is delayed or cancelled at short notice it is the airline's duty to ensure they either get you home on the next available flight, whether that's with their own airline or another airline, or provide food, accommodation and transfers if necessary.

Here are some of the tricks your airline may use to avoid paying flight delay compensation or helping you at the airport.

  • Even when you are delayed and the airline accepts fault they can still leave you high and dry. A KLM flight from Amsterdam to Manchester on the 10th March 2019 was cancelled at short notice originally due to a staffing issue. Ok you might think - these things happen. However, passengers were not expecting the airline's response which was to provide them with a list of hotels and told them to book themselves into one at their own expense. Under EU Regulation 261 the airline has a duty to provide accommodation at their own expense and transfers to the accommodation. KLM shamefully attempted to fob its passengers off by stating that they were unable to book hotels for passengers due to a legal reason in the Netherlands. This has since been debunked as a complete falsehood. To make matters worse they then decided to blame the weather as the reason for the original delay. Shocking!
  • Blaming the weather! Extreme weather can wreak havoc on an airport and cause delays and cancellations to occur. However, airlines are using the weather as a basis to cite "Extraordinary Circumstances" when it comes to avoiding paying flight delay compensation. Often a flight delay issue is not weather related at all and could be a staffing issue, maintenance issue or late incoming flight which they will blame on the weather to avoid paying compensation. There are a number of ways to check the reason for a flight delay to establish the real reason so never take this at face value.
  • Empty service desks. If you have ever been delayed you will know first hand that the customer service desks will have a queue a mile long with your fellow passengers all trying to find an alternative flight. What if there was no-one at the desk? This is happening on an increasing basis - instead of facing their passengers who are probably pretty irate anyway, they choose to hide in the back and avoid you altogether. Signs may be visible asking you to call the central booking line, contact your travel agent or call a foreign number a listen to an automated message in a foreign language. You may even be told to book your own alternative flights home and claim it back later. All of these tactics are against EU law. The airline has a duty of care to you and a representative should be available to assist you with your journey. 
  • Blaming Air Traffic Control restrictions. Airlines need to gain permission from Air Traffic Control before they are able to depart, delays can happen when there's a backlog of short delays or diversions. A knock on impact then occurs when the upcoming flights departure slots have been taken by another aircraft. Air Traffic Control restrictions in this instance are outside of the airlines control however, we have seen many cases in which the airline has not been granted permission due to a technical fault with their aircraft (they dont mention this part) and still blame Air Traffic Control restrictions for the reason of the disruption. Technical faults do not constitute extraordinary circumstances and in most cases, the airline has to pay compensation.
  • Getting you to sign away your rights for EC261 compensation when denied boarding. Airlines are obliged to ask for volunteers first if a flight is overbooked. It does not work on a first come first board basis. Airlines will often offer you cash incentives, upgrades, free flights and accommodation to entice you onto a later flight. By accepting this you waive any rights to compensation. 

So what can you do?

  • Know your rights! You are entitled to a phone call, food appropriate to the delay and hotel accommodation and transfers if your flight is delayed/cancelled for an extended time. Anything less than this is in contravention of EU law.
  • Check availability of alternative flights and have this ready when you speak to a representative.
  • Call the airline directly if customer service queues are too long.
  • If told to book your own accommodation tell them no - insist that they book it on your behalf and provide you with a taxi, bus transfer to the hotel
  • If you are denied boarding and DIDNT volunteer to give up your seat regardless of what you were given as a form of compensation you are entitled to claim flight delay compensation.
  • Contact us when you get back home, fill in our simple application form and let us claim flight delay compensation on your behalf. We have access to detailed flight information not available to you and can tell you if you have a valid claim.

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Have you had a flight delay, missed connection, cancelled flight or have been denied boarding in the last 6 years? If so try our free flight checker to see how much you may be entitled to in compensation for you AND your fellow travellers.

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