Airline Companies Owe Passengers Billions of Euros for their air passenger rights

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Check to make sure whether your airline owes you something – that is the advice given to travelers around the world by agencies specialized in air passenger rights. EU law clearly defines compensation for delayed flights, but experience suggests that paving the way for justice isn’t easy, causing too many to give up.

Passengers who arrive at their destination with a delay of more than three hours are entitled to compensation up to 600 Euro per person, plus expenses and reimbursement of other costs, except in extraordinary circumstances that the carrier cannot be held responsible for. The EU regulations relate to all flights leaving and entering the EU on EU based airlines.
In the last 10 years only two percent of passengers sought compensation for delayed or canceled flights. According to claimflights.co.uk, passengers failed to claim around 4 billion Euros to which they were entitled. But that does not mean that the money was irretrievably lost.

Two cases appeared before British courts last year; the outcome may affect any future actions of this kind. In 2012, James Dawson sued "Thomson Airways” for compensation for an eight hour flight delay from London to the Dominican Republic six years ago. Cambridge County Court ruled in his favor and awarded him £ 975, plus interest (approx. £ 1500). The company however, hoped to break the judgment and called on the Montreal Convention by which such claims should be made within two years of the date of the delayed flight. According to British law, such claims may be submitted within six years. If the appeal is rejected, it is expected that many travelers whose previously rejected claims for compensation were rejected, will be able to submit them again.

The second case is Mr. Ronald Huzar, who sued "Jet2.com" for a flight from 2011. Although the airline argued the ''objective'' technical defect in this case couldn’t be treated as a delay, after a three year battle, the court ruled in favor of Mr. Huzar. It is expected that these cases at least clarify the meaning of the legal term "exceptional circumstances", which is often exploited by the airlines. This term usually refers to bad weather or civil unrest. "Monarch" Airline has stated that the flight was delayed by 24 hours due to a cracked windscreen, but having failed to prove before the court that this was a valid reason for the delay, the claimant received compensation of £ 3200.

A British man, Martin Wragg successfully ended an 18 month legal battle with "Ryanair" last year, proving that even passengers in developed countries with valid reasons have difficulty in claiming their rights. He received 1,700 Euros after his family experienced a flight delay of three hours and 20 minutes, two years ago when returning from Spain. The prosecutor stated that they had suffered a nightmare transferring from one airport to another with two tired kids in the middle of the night. "Ryanair", one of Europe's largest low-cost airlines, rejected the claim for compensation, citing "extraordinary circumstances". The road to justice led to the British Civil Aviation Authority and eventually ended up in court, which ruled in his favor.

According to data published by the London "Observer", the appeals concerning flight delays almost quadrupled last year. The Civil Aviation Authority has received 23,440 claims, but only about 6,000 the year before, around 40 percent of which were ruled in favor of passengers.

Passengers can contact the airlines directly, the national regulator, court or agencies (fees can reach approx. a quarter of the compensatory amount should the claim be successful). One of the agencies is ClaimFlights which has also carried out intensive research.
"We noticed a consistent and deliberate disregard for passenger rights that could result in paying hundreds of Euros to millions of passengers worldwide”, said Lisa Bartel from ClaimFlights GmbH.

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