For those who might not be aware, the European Union (EU) has a regulation known as EU261 which mandates that airlines pay you cash compensation for flights to/from Europe that suffer lengthy delays or cancelations. Basically the compensation ranges from 250 to 600 euros, based on the length of the delay and length of the flight. Longer flights (generally intercontinental) receive the higher payments as do ones with longer delays or cancelation.
Sound too good to be true? It isn’t really. I’ve had it paid multiple times. However, airlines being corporations they do devote a significant amount of time/energy to legally trying to worm out of paying you. Some airlines, however, are great about this. I thought I would outline some of my more memorable experiences, and seek your feedback on yours.
Blah, blah, I’m not a lawyer, this isn’t legal advice, and my experiences might not match yours.
Brussels Airlines: My very first experience with EU261 was with Brussels airlines. I had arrived in Brussels on an overnight redeye flight on United, connecting onto a Brussels Airlines flight to Cotonou, Benin. After about an hour of delays, the dreaded “cancelled” popped up on the gate monitor. Brussels was kind enough to send those of us in business class back to the lounge, and showed up shortly with hotel and meal vouchers. 24 hour delay, flight would go the next day. When we got to the gate next day, there was a pre-filled letter for us to add some details, and that was it. They actually encouraged us to apply for, and although it took nearly three months they did pay, the required 600 euros for this delay. WELL DONE! GRADE: A
American Airlines: Long story short, my Chicago to London flight arrived late leaving me only 30 minutes to connect to Accra, Ghana on British Airways. While we were in flight, American had decided FOR ME that this wasn’t enough time, and rebooked me…the next day…IN COACH. As soon as the agent told me this in the jetway upon deplaning I decided to run for the gate. I made it with 100+ people still to board, but they had given away my seat and the flight was full. BA would do nothing. Fought with the American transfer desk for an hour before giving up and going to the lounge where an amazing agent took care of me. American corporate, however, refuses to pay EU compensation, arguing that I “wasn’t late” because my flight was on time. After nearly two years of arguing the best I got was a crummy $100 voucher. I tried appealing it through multiple firms, and none of them could get American to pay. FAILING GRADE, and a large part of why I won’t fly American unless necessary. GRADE: F
United Airlines: London to Washington Dulles, 4pm flight canceled. They offered me coach (I had been booked in first) in a middle seat 15 hours later…easily qualifying for 600 euros. United claimed they were not obligated to pay since they offered me economy within 3 hours. (False, since must be in the same class). They quickly, however, offered a $400 voucher with little argument. Given it was pretty easy to get and I knew I could use it, I took it. GRADE: C
TAP Portugal: Praia, Cape Verde to Lisbon to London to Washington DC. Similar to American above, my TAP flight arrived in Lisbon late, with only 30 minutes to connect. I didn’t find out until boarding my connection to London that they’d already given away my seat and “the computer won’t let us put you back on it.” Similar to American, TAP refused to pay compensation because “we offered you another option” which was in business class and not first. Round and round and never got a penny of of them. Yes, legally the case is air tight, but I’m not exactly about to file a case in Portuguese court for under $500. I have a chain of over 200 emails on this one, and nothing will get them to pay. GRADE: F
SATA Air Azores: my Azores to Boston flight was cancelled, and I was put on one two hours later – not enough to qualify for compensation. However, delivering me to Boston late caused me to miss my connection to DC and arrive DC nearly eight hours late. Instead of paying the required 400 euros, SATA decided (in a chain of over 200 emails) to play lets make a deal. First they offered me a 100 euro voucher. Then 200. Then a free one-way ticket in business class anywhere they fly. After rejecting all their offers the finally offered a “goodwill payment” of only 300 euros. I decided to cut my losses at 200 emails and take it. Of course, when it appeared in my account they shorted me nearly 10% on the exchange rate, but at this point it was enough. So, I got 75% of what I was entitled to with a lot of pain….GRADE: D+
Lufthansa: DC to Munich and then Cairo. Arrived in Munich right on time, departed Munich with a 3 hour 15 minute delay. Arrived at the gate in Cairo precisely 3 hours an 2 minutes late…but Lufthansa was crafty and listed the official arrival time as only 2:58 delayed. It took them a month to answer my email, but when they did all they asked for was my address and promptly cut me a check for the full 400 euros with no questions asked. I assume it will actually arrive. GRADE: A+
Have you applied for EU261 compensation? Did you get it? How easy was it?
I know you love Lufthansa (and their ducks) but it seems like if they got an a+ then surely so should Brussels airlines.
A is still a perfect grade….A+ is above and beyond!
I have a case pending against TAP. They delayed me a full day from Fortaleza in Brazil back to Europe. Four months have lapsed now and I still haven’t seen my 600 EUR that I have applied for!
Grade F (even if they eventually pay)
Ugh, I wouldn’t hold my breath….I’ve been fighting them for 2 years. Their strategy is definitely to try and wear you down…
I see that the stories of United are different in RSS feeds (being IAD-LHR) vs blogpost where it is LHR-IAD. Just wanted to point out that if flights are originating outside of EU (say IAD) then if the airline is not EU-based then they are not subject to EU261. Meaning that that if you are flying IAD-LHR on United – no compensation, if flying LH – they are liable.
When talking about LHR-IAD, of course all airlines would be liable since the flight originates in EU.
Yeah – I corrected the post after posting because I had gotten the details wrong. That will teach me to blog from memory and not look back at notes!
I was two years ago on the way HEL-ARN-HKG, Pre Eco. HEL-ARN was AOG eventually. Then got (after some self checking) HEL-MUC-HKG in Pre Eco. SAS admitted without no argue, 600EUR cash, as the actual arrival was 8hrs after the scheduled SAS one. Thanks SAS. The booked return fare in Premium Eco was 700EUR. 🙂 The return was actually in C, upgraded. Thanks SAS.
Regards from Helsinki!
Flying on KLM BRU-AMS-ORD departed BRU 1.5 late and missed connection to ORD. Rebooked AMS-DTW-ORD 2.5 hours later. DTW-ORD then gets delayed 2 hours. Arrived in ORD 8 hours later than original itinerary. Claimed EU261. KLM issued a voucher for €800 promptly. A few days later KLM tells me that because the delay was actually due to high winds so no compensations was due. Too bad for them I already spent the voucher! Not sure what grade I would give them, not an A but not an F.