According to research carried out by claim agency, Flight-delayed.co.uk, airlines are continuing to ignore European laws that were introduced to ensure passengers were adequately compensated for time lost due to flight delays.
Flight-delayed.co.uk compiled its report using information taken from 10,000 claims filed by passengers from across Europe that had experienced delays. The report appears to reveal that despite European legislation ruling that air passengers are entitled to compensation if their flight is delayed by three hours or more (unless the delay is due to extraordinary circumstances outside the airline’s control, such as strikes or bad weather), claimants face numerous obstacles to having legitimate claims successfully resolved.
The most common excuse offered by airlines following a delay is that it was due to ‘technical difficulties.’ 40 percent of claims were denied for this reason. Raymond Veldkamp, spokesman for Flight-delayed.co.uk, believes that in many cases this is not the real reason for the delay, which was far more likely to have been brought about by financial considerations rather than technical ones, but the delayed passengers face an impossible task in disproving the airline’s version of events.
Veldkamp said, ‘The European Court ruled that technical defects are part of an airline’s operational responsibilities and do not exempt them from their obligation to compensate passengers in the case of a delay, unless the defect could have reasonably been prevented or predicted. As a result, airlines use this legislative loophole to their advantage by blaming every delay on the catch-all excuse of ‘technical defects’. Airlines are also aware of the public’s fear of crashes, meaning they need only mention a potential defect to lull their customers into waiting for hours on end.’
For years, the main excuse for not paying passenger’s compensation claims was that there was no legal ground to do so, but following extended legal debate between the airlines and the European Court, most airlines have finally stopped using this argument.
Veldkamp commented, ‘For the most part, airlines finally realise that they have lost this battle. As a result, some airlines do compensate more now than they did before, while others stopped responding at all after October 23.’
Airlines are also guilty of complicating the compensation process as much as they can. In one such instance, an airline allegedly drafts its own complaint form, and only accepts compensation requests if they are filed using this form. As a result, many customers have had their letters sent back to them unanswered, forcing them to send the same information twice, but in a different format. Veldkamp said, ‘The airlines know consumers are easily scared off by legal lingo, thick dossiers and lawsuits, and use these things to intimidate the passenger and discourage them from seeing their claim through ‘till the end.’
The experiences of 10,000 claimants were studied for the report; of those only 846 had received compensation immediately following the first request. On October 23, 2012, the EU’s Court of Justice reaffirmed the law in favour of passengers. The study showed that of all passengers that have filed a claim since that date, only 24 percent received a response from the airline within the legally set timeframe of 6 weeks. Before October 23, the figure was 45 percent. The largest shift between the period before and after October 23 can be perceived in claims filed with British Airways. Where previously, BA responded within 6 weeks in 60 percent of all cases, this number dropped dramatically to 17 percent in the period after October 23.
Raymond Veldkamp said, ‘The numbers speak for themselves: airlines ignore the legally set response time or fail to respond altogether. If they do respond, they almost always reject the claim straight away. The reason that is given for rejecting claims varies greatly. What’s also remarkable is that there are huge differences between the results of different airlines. What this means is that the chances of successfully claiming for compensation are highly dependent on which airline you’re facing. This conclusion by itself is unacceptable.’
It is estimated that only 7 percent of consumers are aware of their rights as air passengers.