Passengers who are eligible for compensation as a result of flight disruption can look to companies offering to help them secure money owed.
If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you may be entitled to compensation under certain conditions.
The flight must have been either:
Within the EU and operated by either an EU or non-EU airline
Arriving into the EU from outside the bloc and operated by an EU airline
Departing from the EU to a non-EU country and operated by an EU or non-EU airline
There are many different circumstances under which you may be eligible for compensation. These include:
A delay meaning you arrived at your destination three hours or more late, unless this was due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’ which could not have been avoided.
This might involve extreme weather conditions or security risks, and must be proven by the airline.
In other words, the delay must have been within the airline’s control for compensation to be a possibility.
The flight was cancelled and you were only informed less than 14 days before it was due to take off.
However, the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ exemption applies here too, and if you were rerouted almost immediately onto another flight, this may also affect your entitlement to compensation.
The flight was overbooked and you were denied boarding
If you arrive at the airport on time with a valid flight reservation and are denied boarding because the flight is overbooked, and you do not voluntarily give up your seat or choose to be rerouted within a short period of time, you will likely be entitled to compensation.
The amount of money received in compensation will depend on the distance covered by the flight and the length of the delay, but will range between €250 and €600.
You must not have already received benefits such as compensation or rerouting in order to be eligible.
You can find out more about your rights on this European Union website.
What are and are not extraordinary circumstances?
Extraordinary circumstances include air traffic management decisions, political instability, adverse weather conditions and security risks.
They are out of an airline’s control and so the company cannot be required to pay compensation if a delay or cancellation is caused as a result.
Situations not considered to be extraordinary include:
Technical problems on the aircraft, perhaps caused by a failure to adequately maintain it
Strikes by airline staff. This is known as internal strike action and only includes the staff operating the plane, such as cabin crew and pilots.
It does not include airport staff strikes, which are generally considered to be external to the airline and therefore extraordinary circumstances.
In order to avoid paying compensation, the airline must be able to prove the link between the extraordinary circumstances and the delay/cancellation, and that this disruption could not have been reasonably foreseen or prevented.
The only circumstances under which an airport strike may result in the paying of compensation is when passengers are delayed by more than three hours as a result of the after-effects of the industry action.
For example, if there were a baggage handler strike day on a Thursday, any affected flights on that day would not be eligible for compensation. But if the strike-related disruption continues on the Friday even though the official action is over, the airline may be deemed responsible and compensation may be due.
This exception was decided by a European Court of Justice ruling in October 2012.
Companies offer help with compensation
In order to obtain compensation, some passengers use companies whose work is dedicated to this sort of claim.
An example of one such company is RetardVol, which was founded in 2016. Its founder, Anaïs Escudié, said: “Our role is to help customers who fall victim to flight cancellations or delays.
“We engage with the airlines to begin a reimbursement procedure.” Ms Escudié added that many people are unaware of the steps they must take to get their money back, even though since 2004 every airline has been obliged to offer refunds for cancelled flights under EU law.
Ms Escudié added that her company is committed to “enabling passengers to have a legal course of action by initiating proceedings against the airline without paying up-front costs.
“There is therefore no fear of losing money, but still the possibility of receiving compensation.
“Some airlines will do anything to avoid compensating their passengers,” Ms Escudié said, giving the example of a company which might tell customers that they arrived safe and sound, showing that the flight crew fulfilled their obligations.
“In general, passengers who do not know the law will stop at this stage in the reimbursement [process]. Our role is to help them by proving [their rights] and contesting such behaviour [by airlines].”
Companies like RetardVol generally take 30% commission on compensation won. This percentage does not change, even if the case reaches court.
This rate may change depending on the company, so it is best to check before you begin the process.
Have you ever tried going through one of these companies for airline compensation? How helpful were they and did you receive the money quickly? Tell us about it at email@example.com
2,400 flights cancelled and more strike days to come
More than 2,400 flights were cancelled across Europe last Friday (September 16) because of an air traffic control strike in France, and many passengers will therefore be expecting a refund on their ticket fare.
Some 1,000 flights – or half of the scheduled services for the day – were cancelled in France alone, with all of the country’s airports affected.
Read more: French air traffic control strike: 1000 flights, all airports affected
The 2,400 flight figure came from a report published by the European air traffic control network Eurocontrol.
France’s air traffic control union SNCTA has also issued a strike notice for three further days of mobilisation on September 28, 29 and 30.
This will only happen if talks between the union and civil aviation authority the DGAC do not reach a satisfactory conclusion.
Read more: What’s known about planned three-day air controllers' strike in France
Passengers affected by cancellations or delays last Friday should have been informed individually by their airline.
They should also have been offered a seat on another flight – if practicable – or a full refund for your ticket fare.
Because the strike was carried out by air traffic controllers – who are airport staff – the disruption was technically out of the airline’s control and so you would not normally be entitled to additional compensation.
However, as explained above, if the delays continued into Saturday, for example, the situation may be different.
French air traffic controllers announce three more strike days
New UK air route, Paris-Berlin TGV: Eight France travel updates