Claiming compensation for flight delays

A few weeks ago I wrote about the ‘Huzar vs Jet2’ legal case.  This has brought substantial clarity to the rules covering ‘EC261’ compensation for delayed flights.

As a reminder, you are due the following compensation if your flight from an EU airport on any airline, or to an EU airport on an airline licensed to fly within the EU, is delayed:

Flights under 1,500 km with a delay of 2 hours or more are entitled to €250

Flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km (or any flight over 1,500km within the EU) with a delay of at least 3 hours are entitled to €400

Flights of 3,500 km or more (unless entirely within the EU) and a waiting time of 4 hours are entitled to €600

Where rerouting is offered and results in the passenger arriving within 2, 3 or 4 hours of the scheduled arrival time, depending on distance, the compensation payable is halved

Delays lasting more than 5 hours give passengers the option to withdraw from the flight altogether and be flown back to their original destination

Wikipedia has a long article on EC261 if you want to go into it in more detail.

The Huzar case clarified that airlines are NOT allowed to use ‘mechanical failure’ as an excuse to avoid payment.  The Court of Appeal has now ruled that this does not count as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ which allows an airline to avoid compensation payments.

Flight delay

If you are due compensation, you need to decide whether to pursue the claim yourself or to outsource it to a third party.

What I did not mention when I wrote about the Huzar case, and as a press release last week reminded me, a number of groups have sprung up over the last year or so to help reclaim money you may be due.

Flightright, for example, will handle the process on your behalf in return for a 25% fee.  Given that the compensation figures are not huge (from €250 per person) this is arguably not a bad deal in return for getting the entire process off your shoulders.

euclaim offers a similar service, albeit with a slightly higher fee.  An online search will bring up some other alternatives.

You can also try the DIY approach.  MoneySavingExpert has a guide to making your own claim if you want to go through the process yourself, although that won’t help if the airline refuses to pay and you need to use the Small Claims Court.  I don’t have any personal experience of claiming EC261 compensation, luckily, so I don’t know how drawn out the process could be.

In theory, ‘Huzar vs Jet2’ should mean that more airlines begin to settle claims directly.  It will take a few months to find out if this is actually the case in reality.

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Comments

  1. Hi,

    Wondered if you could help with this…

    I recently flew on a flight from Madrid to London (LHR). the BA aircraft scheduled to operate my flight was struck by lightening on landing in Heathrow on an earlier sector. Consequentially my flight was delayed by 3 and a half hours. On making a claim to BA, they have that this constitutes extraordinary circumstances.

    My take on it is that BA have a large fleet and it was their choice not to move around the fleet in order to allow an aircraft to operate my sector (which is 2 sectors after the incident). That is they have a choice on how to utilise their fleet, and because they chose to prioritise other flights, I was delayed. Do you think this is a valid claim, does anyone else have a similar claim?

    • This is roughly what the Huzar case was about. However, in that case, it was a maintenance issue that delayed the plane. The court felt that Jet2 should have alternative aircraft available to cover maintenance.

      In this case, whilst I accept that BA should (indeed does) have spare aircraft ready to go at Heathrow, a lightening strike probably does count as extraordinary circumstances.

  2. JDuncan says:

    We had a 3 hour delay flying VS to Orlando last April;
    the delay was texted through the day before and all VS flights from LGW on the same day were delayed by 3 hours – this to me reads airlines fault…. All the way over i was looking at the clock (the payout for a family of 5 would have been nice)… and the scheduled landing time see saw’d 3 hours delay +/- 10 minutes on the landing. We landed at 2.56 (i think they put the pedal down a bit towards the end) – what i have not been able to find out is what constitutes arrival time – is it the gate – or the runway? Does anyone know….

    And as an aside VS have also stated on thier claims website that all claims are on hold until the Jet2 ruling is finalised.

    Cheers
    JD

  3. I think it is block time as departure is at push-back.

    The time on-blocks is not the same time as the doors are opened though. However, as stand choice is not in the control of the airline, for the purposes of compensation, it COULD be deemed to be the landing time as, beyond that point, the airline’s hands are largely tied.

    As I recall, we used to use time on/off blocks for the purposes of on-time arrivals & departures reporting to BA. Block & flight times came from ACARS.

    • JDuncan says:

      Thanks for the reply.

      Whilst i can see that stand choice is not the control of the airline – its pretty much impossible to taxi and be on stand within 4 minutes of landing at MCO, so i guess its factored into the arrival time. Either way – its worth a punt!

      • Agreed but, even at the same airport, time from landing to blocks could vary significantly depending of time of day, the day of the week or even the operating airline. (eg flag carriers often get taxiway priority over others at gulf & indian airports for example so you could be waiting a while before arriving on stand if your landing time is close to that of a number of “local” planes!)

        Either way it is worth a punt!

  4. Grant Bremner says:

    So how long after bad weather is it fair for BA to claim extraordinary circumstances. My flight was canceled at 8:30pm due to thunderstorms that finished at 1pm. Denied compensation due to bad weather, despite the fact it was very sunny outside and other flights were still flying. Should I now try court or 3rd party claim service or is weather a get out clause for airlines that can’t be succsefully challenged?

  5. Jim Cleaver says:

    My family were recently delayed by 4 hours, do we have to write a separate letter each for my wife and I? and what about a lap infant? are they entitled to compensation?

    • I was on a flight, to guernsey, yesterday.
      After a delay of 1 1/2 hours and a re-scheduled flight a minimum 4 hours late( which I thought was very optimistic) I re-booked for today.
      The flight was 30 mins late leaving today due to the inbound return from my original flight, which ended up arriving 22 hours late.
      My only gripe is it took ground crew 1 1/2hrs to get my bags off the flight 🙁

  6. Nadeshka says:

    Worth mentioning that BA will settle with avios more readily than cash – we had our BLR-LHR flight cancelled (after sitting on it for 2 hours) due to an engine issue that was discovered in last minute checks. No availability on direct flights for the rest of the week, but we were rerouted via Delhi the next day.
    When I filed a claim BA cited extraordinary circumstances, which I refuted. After a few exchanges (they wouldn’t budge) I filed a claim via the small claims court. They offered the €1200 for 2 people in the form of a travel voucher (terms far too restrictive for me to make use of). I however said I would consider avios. They agreed and we got 100,000 and court fees refunded just before the case was due to go to court (got a letter from their lawyers saying they did intend to defend the claim, so didn’t seem they would back down).
    Was happy with this result, given there’s good reward availibility for my intended travel plans.

  7. umichguy says:

    Do technical faults count or are they “extraordinary” and out of airline’s control? I had a flight from PUJ to LGW via ANU and due to some technical issues with fuelling flap/ control module there was a delay by around 3 to 4hrs.

    Original landing time at LGW: 09:44AM BST
    Actual arrival: 01:26PM BST

    Wondering if I should bother with a claim or not. Thanks!

  8. Frankie McPolin says:

    Hi Raffles
    Just a FYI that I received this email this morning about my claim. I already had spoken to a BA customer relations person last Thursday on the phone about this. It looks like BA are going to wait until the Supreme Court has issued its decision. I guess that could take months
    —————————————————————————————————————————–
    Dear Mr McPolin

    Thank you for your email regarding EU Compensation for your flight BA0289 on 23 May 2014.

    In accordance with Regulation 261/2004, compensation is payable in some instances for delays in arrival of 3 hours or more. However, compensation is not payable if the delay is due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

    There are examples of what can constitute “extraordinary circumstances” set out in the Regulation 261/2004, including technical issues. In the regulation technical issues are referred to as “unexpected flight safety shortcomings”. The reason for the delay to your flight was a technical issue of this nature, and therefore, compensation would not be payable in accordance with the regulation.

    The issue of what constitutes a technical fault amounting to an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ was recently considered by the Court of Appeal in the case of Huzar v Jet2.com. However, this is being appealed to the Supreme Court. In the circumstances, we are postponing consideration of your claim for compensation until the Supreme Court has issued its decision.

    Thank you once again for contacting us. I do understand that this is not the answer you were hoping for and I’m sorry to disappoint you on this occasion.

    Best regards

    Mr Igalap
    EU Compensation Claims

    • Yep, looks like you need to progress things via the Small Claims route instead now.