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Andrew Daniel

Andrew leads our Operational Team and is our expert when it comes to all the ins and outs of car hire excess insurance.

Airlines accused of obstructing delay compensation claims

Airlines are accused of obstruction and delay when it comes to paying compensation for delayed or cancelled flights.

European airlines are continuing to evade Euro laws (EC 261/2004) for compensation due to be paid to passengers whose flights are delayed or cancelled according to flight-delayed.com. Air passengers are entitled to meals, snacks, telephone calls and cash compensation of between €250 and €600 if their flight is delayed by three hours or more unless the delay was due to "extraordinary circumstances”.

The Civil Aviation Authority define "extraordinary circumstances” as anything outside the airline's control. This includes disruption due to bad weather like the recent snow or fog but also unexpected flight safety shortcomings – Dreamliner anyone?

Flight-delayed.com, a website set up to help passengers claim compensation from airlines say that over 40% of all claims are now refused citing "technical difficulties”.

However, not all technical difficulties would qualify as an extraordinary circumstance, Raymond Veldkamp, Flight-delayed.com spokesman explained: "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 not 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.”

Anyone who expected improvements after the European Court of Justice overturned a legal challenge from airlines including BA and Easyjet on 23rd October 2012 will be disappointed.

According to analysis of 10,000 passenger complaints by flight-delayed.com just 864 received compensation from the airline after their initial request. Of the passengers that lodged their claims before 23rd October, 45% got a response within the legally set timescale of 6 weeks. After October 23rd, this figure dropped to just 24%. The greatest shift came from BA whose response levels dropped from 60% before the ruling to just 17% after.

Veldkamp continues: "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.”

At the moment it would appear that a certain level of persistence and determination may required to obtain compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight.

If you've booked your flights as part of a package, you would normally approach you tour operator first. Your Travel Insurance may also include some payments for flight delay or cancellation.

Independent travellers should approach the airline. But what if the cancellation was due to something more serious, like the collapse of the airline? We investigate Holiday Supplier Insolvency Insurance here.