The Tricks Airlines Use to Deny EU261 Compensation

Unlike in Australia, Europe has a government-mandated compensation scheme that forces airlines to compensate passengers affected by delayed, cancelled and overbooked flights. European airlines – and non-European airlines flying from Europe – are legally required to pay compensation to passengers delayed over two hours.

In theory, this is a very consumer-friendly system that prevents airlines from frivolously inconveniencing passengers. But it seems European airlines have learnt every trick in the book to avoid paying EU261 compensation!

Under the EU261 laws any passenger departing the European Union, or flying to the European Union on a European airline, is covered. The compensation payable depends on the length of the delay and the distance of the flight, and can range from €250 (~$393) to €600 (~$944).

There have been several cases reported by AFF members over the past few months where European airlines have tried to weasel their way out of paying the EU261 compensation owed. Here are some of the tricks being played…

Trick 1: Blame the weather

Airlines are not liable if the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances beyond the airline’s control. This can include poor weather, natural disasters, air traffic control strikes, medical emergencies and security issues.

Unfortunately, airlines are sometimes dishonest about the real reason for a delay or cancellation. In a recent example, British Airways blamed the weather for a cancelled flight from London to Milan. Trouble is, the weather at both destinations was fine, the cancellation was announced 10 hours beforehand and all other flights operated that day.

Read more: EU261. An actual experience when BA cancelled an EU flight.

Trick 2: Pretend mechanical problems are beyond the airline’s control

Last year, Qatar Airways claimed that it was not liable as the flight (which departed from the European Union) was delayed by unforeseen mechanical problems. However, mechanical problems are not considered an “extraordinary” circumstance. Qatar Airways did eventually pay out when UK authorities became involved.

Read more: Qatar – Transit in DOH – 45min? Really?

Trick 3: Miscalculate a flight’s distance

In another case, British Airways claimed that the distance between London and Lisbon is under 1,500km. In fact it is over 1,500km, but the compensation amount owed is €150 lower for flights under 1,500km in length.

Read more: EU flight compensation claim: Air travel distance between LHR and LIS

Trick 4: Ignore all correspondence

Iberia is notorious for simply ignoring requests for EU261 compensation! See this AFF thread for some examples of our members’ experiences with Iberia: IBERIA flouting EU261. Any recommendations or success?

So, what should you do if you believe you’re owed EU261 compensation but the airline isn’t playing ball? Being persistent and asserting your rights can help. If that still doesn’t work, there are countless agencies in the European Union such as Flightright or FairPlane or that can take on the case for you. If the agency is successful in forcing the airline to pay compensation, they will keep a portion of the payout as commission.


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]