If you’ve ever been affected by a delay or even cancellation and tried to enforce your passenger rights, you’ll already know what a tough task that can be with most airlines.
You can find out about your rights here:
The reason, why many airlines don’t take the claims seriously is simple: many passengers don’t want to sue the airline and will simply accept “extraordinary circumstances” as an excuse.
Suing the airline and hiring a lawyer always comes with a financial risk. There are, however, ways to reduce that risk, or even completely get rid of it.
That’s why we present you a three-point-plan for getting your passenger rights enforced:
Table of contents
If you’re affected by a delay, cancellation, or refusal to let you board the plane, you should definitely write everything down and, if possible, get an employee of the airline to confirm what happened.
You can take pictures of, e.g. the arrival and departure screen at the airport, showing the delay, let an airline employee give you a written comfirmation of the delay’s cause, or at least write everything down yourself.
The moment that counts for delays is the point in time at which the first door is opened to let everyone deboard the plane, so you should also write down the exact time that happens. Especially if your delay is close to the 3-hour limit, this could be extremely important.
Should you have forgotten to do that, there’s no need to panic. The airline has to prove that what you’re saying is incorrect.
You can check the delay, even for a past flight, simply using Flightstats.com. To do that, you need the airline’s name, the flight number, and the date. You can also use Flightradar24. Nevertheless, you can only check the last 7 days for free.
Another option is to let your case be checked for free by one of the flight-right-websites, e.g. Flightright. These websites tend to have the flight data of the last 2-3 years. If you then wish to use that website’s service or try enforcing your rights yourself is up to you.
You should collect as much proof as possible. The airports’ websites are also a good place to look up. Most data, however, is only available for a short period of time, often even only on the same day.
2. Claiming Compensation From the Airline
If you believe that you’re entitled to a compensation, you need to claim it from the airline.
You can use the EU’s complaint form for air passenger rights or write your own complaint. Whatever you write, it should include the following things:
- Name of all passengers that wish to be compensated
- Date of the flight
- Origin & destination airports
- Scheduled times of departure & arrival
- Actual time of arrival
- Distance in km
- Requested compensation
- The proof that you’ve collected
- Your bank account
- A payment deadline (min. 2 weeks)
If it’s not a delay but a cancellation, you can also mention the Ruling of the European Court on 19.11.2019 C-402/07 and C432/07.
It is important that you set a deadline (of at least 2 weeks).
You also shouldn’t just send your request as a normal letter, but better send it as a fax, or as a registered mail. You should obviously also keep a copy and the shipping confirmation.
3. Airline Doesn’t React or Refuses to pay Compensation?
Should the money not have been wired to your bank account after the deadline you had set, or the airline denied your claims, there are various ways to enforce your rights.
By the way: You do not need to accept a voucher. If the compensation sum is offered to you as a voucher, and you’re thinking about accepting that offer, be sure to read the terms & conditions, or to ask for them.
Threatening to sue
What often works is to threaten to sue. You’ll often then get a positive response like “…out of goodwill and without recognition of a legal obligation bla bla bla…”
Here’s an example from a conversation with British Airways concerning a luggage that arrived days later:
“I discussed your case with my supervisor again today and can tell you that we will reimburse the replacement purchases of EUR 40.94 out of goodwill and without acknowledging any legal obligation.”
Contacting a National Enforcement Body
Another option is to contact the aviation agency of the nation that you flew into.
Here’s a list with the enforcement bodies of all Euopean countries: National Enforcement Bodies under Regulation [EC] 261/2004
The chances of this working, however, are very small. You’ll mostly not even get a reply.
Getting a lawyer
Often, there won’t be a way that doesn’t include a lawyer. The lawyer can add additional pressure onto the airline, and, if necessary, also sue the airline.
It is nonetheless important, that you set a deadline in step 2. That way, if the case goes your way, the airline has to pay your legal costs, even if it pays right after your lawyer sends them a letter.
If you really end up in court, you’ll have to be very patient, especially if it concerns smaller amounts of money (less than €1,000). Usually, it will take over a year until you get your money.
Obviously, suing always comes with a certain risk. There is, however, a way without a financial risk:
If you’re unwilling to get into a financially risky situation, you can use the websites that charge a commission for taking over your case, and therefore rid you of any risk of being stuck with legal costs.
Usually, the commission lies between 25% and 30% of the compensation. Should your case be unsuccessful, the websites will take over your legal costs:
|Flug-Rechte||20% + VAT|
|Flug-erstattung||22% + VAT|
|ClaimFlights||22.5% + VAT|
|EUClaim||22.5% + VAT|
|Complane||24% + VAT|
|Fairplane||24.5% + VAT (max. 29.15%)|
|Refund.me||25% + VAT|
|Flightright||25% + VAT|
|Flug-verspaetet.de||25% + VAT|
|Myflyright||25% + VAT|
|Airline Schreck||25% + VAT|
|EUClaim||26% + VAT|
|Compensation2go||29% + VAT|
|Wirkaufendeinenflug||41,65% – 29,75%|
|EUFlight||35% + VAT|
|EUFlieger||44% – 33,33%|
These websites, however, don’t always provide a good experience. They often try to get various cases for the same flight, as to bundle their lawsuit. This will then make everything take far longer than if you hire your own lawyer.
You have to fight for your rights!
Feel free to ask questions in the comments section, and we’ll try to answer, if possible. You can also share your frustration or joy in the comments section.
Frequently Asked Questions
You should first try to enforce your claims directly with the airline. For that, you only need to send a simple letter via mail or fax. Many airlines now even have a special form on their website that you’ll only have to fill out.
Should the airline deny your claims, you can contact a flight-right-website, against a commission if things go well. If all fail, you can still get a lawyer.
Should you have been affected by a delay or cancellation, it can later be helpful to have as much documentation as possible. The most important thing is to write down the exact time at which the airplane’s door was opened at the gate. The airline only documents the time of landing, but the decisive time for the 3-hour delay is the time at which you could, in theory, leave the plane (even if you’re sitting all the way in the back of the plane).
Take pictures of the airport screens that show that your flight is delayed, also at the destination airport!