Flight delays can be frustrating, but sometimes there’s a silver lining. If you’re flying on a European airline, or any other airline on a flight departing Europe, you could be entitled to compensation.
The European Union has generous laws designed to help passengers affected by flight delays and cancellations. The “EU261” regulations entitle passengers to up to €600 (around $860) in compensation.
Compensation under the EU261 laws is payable in the event of cancellations, involuntary downgrades, long delays and any case of being denied boarding due to the flight being oversold. The law applies to any flight departing from within the European Union, as well as any flight on a European airline that arrives in Europe.
One member recently put the EU261 laws to the test after their Qatar Airways flight was delayed. This member was flying from Edinburgh to Bangkok via Doha. Their first flight from Edinburgh to Doha was delayed, resulting in the connection to Bangkok being missed. After a long wait in Qatar’s Doha lounge, our member eventually arrived in Bangkok on the next flight around 6 hours late.
Our flight from EDI was delayed by 60 min so of course we missed the connecting flight in DOH. Qatar handled it very smoothly – they’re obviously used to it with 45 min transits. We spent 6 hours in the Doha J lounge noming and snoozing.
For short-haul flights within Europe, delays of more than 2 hours are eligible for compensation of up to €250 (roughly $360). For long-haul flights the delay needs to be at least 3-4 hours, but the compensation amount increases to €600. The delay is calculated based on the time that the passenger arrives at their final destination.
The only exception is when flights are considered to be delayed due to "extraordinary circumstances". In this case, Qatar Airways initially attempted to argue that compensation was not owed as the flight was delayed due to technical problems with the aircraft. However, as our member successfully argued, technical and maintenance issues are not considered to be extraordinary circumstances under the law.
Although Qatar initially refused compensation, they agreed to pay up after our member got the UK Retail Ombudsman and UK Civil Aviation Authority involved.
"Thank you for writing to us again and please accept our apologies for our late reply. In accordance to EU Regulations, we would like to offer you EUR600/- as compensation for the inconvenience caused. Kindly advise which one of our offices would be most convenient for you to liaise with in order for us to advise you on how to claim the amount."
If you believed you’re entitled to compensation under the EU261 regulations, you can either contact the airline directly or proceed through a third-party agent. Using a third-party can save a lot of time, but they generally take a cut of any compensation awarded.
Unfortunately there is currently no equivalent legislation in Australia.
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