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When Your Flight Originating In Europe is Cancelled or Delayed

#1
Several years ago we were due to fly From Copenhagen to Tampa with one stop - Frankfurt or Munich, I can't remember. The flight was booked with United, but the carrier was their partner, Lufthansa. Altho United showed us as confirmed on the flight, Lufthansa had no record of us, and we were not allowed to fly. United was ZERO help in getting us rebooked, and it was only thru the kindness of an airport liaison that we eventually made it home. I was so mad, and determined to make United reimburse us for all time, trouble and frustration. Emails and letters to United got me nowhere. This is when I learned about the EU laws that regulate delayed and cancelled flights.

Under EU Regulation 261/2004, passengers are entitled to compensation when their flight is delayed or cancelled. A quick Google search will provide all the information you need. Here's just one example: How to claim flight delay or cancellation compensation.

The amount of compensation depends on 3 things:
  • The specific circumstances
  • the length of the delay
  • the distance of the flight
At the time of our Copenhagen flight, we were entitled to €600 each. I found a form online, but found it a little intimidating, so I chose to use Air Help to file my claim. As you might expect, they take a percentage - 25% - but I'm happy to report that it's really no longer necessary to use their services.

In August (2018) we were scheduled to fly from London Heathrow to Munich Germany on British Airways. The flight was due to depart at 9 a.m., so we arrived at the airport before 7 a.m., only to discover that the flight had been cancelled at 3 a.m.! Part of the law referenced above also requires airlines to pay for your food, lodging and other related expenses, so we didn't have to worry about those costs, but of course I still had to notify the rental car agency that we'd be arriving a day later, and we also had to let our friends know that they'd be spending their first night in our vacation rental all alone. A representative from BA advised me to document these costs in my claim.

After reading the article previously mentioned, as well as a few others, I discovered that most airlines (['m guessing European based airlines, not necessarily U.S. based airlines) now have the necessary forms on their own websites, making it much simpler to file a claim. It's not necessarily easy to find the form, but with a little luck you'll find it. I documented our flight delay, and asked for the standard compensation - €250 each - as well as compensation for our one day lost for the car rental, one day lost on our vacation rental, and miscellaneous phone/internet expenses. I uploaded the required supporting documents and submitted my claim.

After 3 weeks had gone by with no response after the initial acknowledgement, I sent another email asking for an update. Within a few days I had a reply, telling me that my claim had been processed and that the equivalent of €500 would be deposited into my U.S. bank account, and that an additional $148 would be paid for my miscellaneous expenses. My claim for the car rental and lodging was denied, but the agent told me I should be able to claim this on my travel insurance (which I didn't have, so I can't verify this). Additionally the letter was very apologetic, which was a nice change from the arrogant attitude we seem to get from airlines these days.

Bottom line: if you're flying within Europe, or from Europe back to the U.S. and your flight is delayed, you may very well be entitled to compensation. Here's a quick overview:

HOW MUCH YOU'RE ENTITLED TO IF YOUR FLIGHT IS DELAYED

Delay to your arrival Flight distance Amount of compensation

At least three hours Less than 1,500km €250
Between 1,500km and 3,500km €400
More than 1,500km and within the EU €400

Three to four hours More than 3,500km, between an EU and non-EU airport €300

At least four hours More than 3,500km, between an EU and non-EU airport €600
 

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