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Passenger Rights Unclear after several Policy Changes: When can a Compensation or a Refund be claimed?

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The outbreak of COVID-19 has changed the face of the aviation industry. Various policy changes leave passengers wondering in which cases they are entitled to a refund or a compensation.

London, 13th October 2020 - The EU Passenger Rights Regulation protects the rights of all passengers in Europe. Under normal circumstances, air passengers who are affected by long delays or flight cancellations due to operational reasons are in most cases entitled to financial compensation under EU law. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has caused quite a stir in the airline industry. “At the moment, around 55% less flights are operated in Europe, compared to last year’s figures due to last minute cancellations as well as flight schedule adjustments which now accommodate the lower number of travellers. Nevertheless, passenger numbers increased during the summer months. Many of these passengers are now wondering what their rights are if their flight has been cancelled at short notice or what to do if the airline does not want to grant them a refund or compensation", said Tom van Bokhoven, CEO of air passenger rights specialist Flight-delayed.co.uk. The most relevant information is collected in this article.

I think I’m entitled to a refund: How long does it take until I receive my money?

Legally speaking, airlines have 7 days from the date of notification of the cancellation to pay their passengers the refund of their ticket costs. However, most airlines currently refer to the high volume of requests to justify delays in the process. Depending on the airline, it can take several months before a refund is paid. "According to our data, less than 2% of all airlines currently comply with the legal requirement of 7 days. Most airlines however delay this process by offering their customers vouchers instead of a refund. In order to delay or avoid payments, the conditions of vouchers are made more appealing in order to get customers to accept them instead of insisting on a refund. However, the choice to accept a voucher is entirely up to the passengers. If they prefer a financial refund, the airline in question must grant it", explains Tom van Bokhoven of Flight-delayed.co.uk.

What if I don't want to travel after all because of the security risks?

In cases where passengers want to cancel their flight, the airline's booking conditions that were agreed upon when booking the flight apply. Most airlines have adapted their booking conditions to the current crisis situation and now often offer rebookings for later flights or flights to other destinations free of charge. In some cases, it is even possible to request a voucher from the airline, which can then be redeemed for another flight with the same airline in the future. While this offer seems appealing at first glance, customers are often disappointed when finding out that a rebooking often goes hand in hand with a higher ticket price. The difference for the new plane ticket must be covered by the passengers which leads to additional costs. Unfortunately, passengers that decide to cancel the trip on their own are not entitled to a refund.

In what cases can I claim compensation despite COVID-19?

Despite the effects of the coronavirus, around 63% of all seats on board European flights are booked when compared to last year’s data. Due to the complex system of parties that are needed to operate a flight as scheduled, such as the cabin crew, airport personnel, air traffic controllers and others, delays or difficulties during the different processes are common and can lead to flight delays. In case of a delay of more than 3 hours, passengers may be entitled to compensation according to the EU Passenger Rights Regulation. This means that for flights that are operated despite the effects of COVID-19 but are delayed for more than 3 hours due to other reasons, such as technical diffi00culties on the aircraft, passengers may be entitled to a compensation of up to 600 euros per person.

Agencies such as Flight-delayed.co.uk have specialised in dealing with airlines and have all the information and data sources to determine whether a flight is eligible for compensation or a refund. Additionally, resources to take legal steps are available, which greatly increases the chances of successfully enforcing a claim for compensation.

How much compensation am I entitled to for my flight?

The amount of compensation depends on the distance of the delayed flight. The longer the distance, the more compensation passengers will receive. For all flights of up to 1,500 kilometres, passengers are entitled to compensation of 250 euros per passenger. For all flights within the European Union with a distance of more than 1,500 kilometres, passengers are entitled to 400 euros in compensation per person. Passengers on flights outside the EU with a distance of between 1,500 kilometres and 3,500 kilometres can also claim 400 euros per passenger. 600 euros compensation per passenger can be claimed by passengers for delayed flights departing or arriving outside the EU and covering a distance of more than 3,500 kilometres. On these long-distance flights, in case of a delay between 3 and 4 hours, airlines have the right to reduce the compensation per passenger from 600 euros per person to 300 euros per person.

Frequently asked questions passenger rights

How can I claim my compensation or refund?

Throughout the years airlines have developed a great set of skills and tricks to avoid or delay paying compensations or refunds to customers. The best tactic to claim a refund is to keep all important documents, such as the booking confirmation and the boarding pass, if available, and send this information to the airline along with an email that contains an explanation of the exact circumstances of the cancellation and the amount of passengers who want their refunds paid out. “Despite the legal obligation to pay a refund within 7 days after the cancellation, 90% of requests made by passengers directly are rejected by the airline. It is unfortunate and unacceptable that airlines deny passengers rights and that help from lawyers or passenger rights specialists, such as Flight-delayed.co.uk is required to enforce these rights”, says van Bokhoven.

Claiming compensation is generally much trickier and much more time consuming than claiming a refund. Passengers are advised to keep all their documents, as well as receipts for food, drinks or accommodation that was needed after the delay was announced. It can also help to request a confirmation of the delay from the airport employees and to create a timeline of all events. Lastly, exchanging contact details with other affected passengers can help to prove the circumstances of the flight delay. All this information will serve as proof of the delay and may increase changes to successfully claim compensation from the airline.

Flight-Delayed.com will be happy to help you claim a refund for your cancelled flight

Unfortunately, we see too often that airlines still fail to comply with the legal obligations. Passengers are forced to accept vouchers when they are actually entitled to a refund of their fare. Flight-Delayed.com will be happy to help you claim the full refund. From submitting the claim to taking the airline to the courts in the event of non-payment. Since 2010, we have been committed to upholding the rights of affected air passengers throughout Europe.

Fill in your flight details and find out immediately whether you are entitled to the refund of your ticket. In just 3 minutes you can submit your claim on a 'no win, no fee' basis. Should the airline obstruct the process, we will take them to court if necessary. All legal costs are covered by our 25% fee.

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