The Truth About Airline Compensation Claims.

Airport arrivals international travel

The rules and laws for claiming compensation from airlines when flights are delayed or cancelled are complicated enough, but the airlines themselves are taking advantage of that situation and refusing to pay out legitimate claims for delayed or cancelled flights. Here is the truth of what airlines are really doing with your claims and why you need to hold them to account.

After successfully claiming compensation against an airline recently for constant delays, and having done so numerous times in the past, I am no stranger to dealing with airline complaint and claims procedures. The problem is many passengers are not as persistent as me, and many more don’t know what to do when their flight is delayed or cancelled, and that is what the airlines are counting on.

Anyone who has ever tried to complain or claim compensation against an airline for a delayed or cancelled flight will tell you of the absolute hell that it is trying to even get the airline to acknowledge there was a problem in the first place, never mind acknowledge their complaint, and there is a reason for that.

The Truth About How Airlines Treat Compensation Claims.

Obviously airlines don’t want to pay out compensation at all, so they will often ignore them as much as possible or in some cases even lie to passengers outright in the hope that passengers will get so fed up they will just give up and go away grumbling, or even if that doesn’t work, quite often they will simply ignore legitimate claims too for the exact same reason.

The first tactic is always to ignore you as much as possible, or if that doesn’t work they will delay the process for so long that they essentially slide back into ignoring you again. After that many airlines will often outright deny any claim regardless of the truth of the matter, using the old ‘act of God’ routine and try and say it wasn’t their fault.

And even if a claim does manage to go through, the next tactic is to stall again keeping customers waiting for months after any reasonable time limit has long since passed, and even dismiss claims that are perfectly legitimate.

Things have gotten so bad even the CAA are finally taking legal action against Ryanair!

Of course this isn’t every airline, and doesn’t happen to every claim, but it does happen often enough across the entire industry to make it a discernible pattern.

The problem is they do this because they know that most of the time it will work, and they can get away with it.

But they shouldn’t. And they can’t, if you know what you are doing.

My last half dozen flights or so have all been delayed significantly, making me miss connections or severely impacting trips in other ways, and one was cancelled at the last minute. I managed to take those flights and get to my destination eventually, but on every occasion I was able to claim back almost the entire cost of the flights themselves, essentially giving me almost free travel because of the airlines inability to provide the service I had paid for.

And I did this not by asking them to help, but by laying down the law, demanding my rights and holding them to account.

How To Deal With Airlines.

Know Your Rights.

The rules set by the Civil Aviation Authority apply to Europe and the UK, and are confusing at best and often inconsistently applied, but it is important to remember that there are rules and you do have rights.

Under the EU passenger rights legislation, often known as EC261, you have a lot of rights if your flight is to, from or within the European Union. If these do not apply to you, for example if you fly anywhere outside the EU on a non EU flight, then your rights will depend on the small print of each individual airline, but you still have some protection for flights within the United States of America under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations governed by the Federal Aviation Administration, or the FAA; or more widely the Montreal Convention for international flights.

Be Persistent.

Airlines will ignore you as much as they possibly can. Don’t let them. One of the biggest reasons all of my claims have gone through is because I hounded them constantly and would not allow them to ignore me. I stated very explicitly I knew my rights and I knew exactly how to escalate it if necessary.

Don’t Be Afraid To Go Public On Social Media.

Airlines hate bad publicity, obviously, and they all have open policies for their social media teams to try and drag you into the direct messages as soon as possible. That is why if you go to airlines such as Ryanair or British Airway’s Twitter feeds all you will see in their replies is a long list of ‘I’m sorry that happened, please DM us’.

Every single time I stated I was happy to keep this civil and respond privately but would have absolutely no problem jumping back into public messaging if I got a hint of any delay or obfuscation. Of course it helped that I have a slightly larger than average platform but that doesn’t mean anyone else can’t use the same tactic. They don’t like bad publicity. Period.

Don’t Be Afraid To Issue A Threat.

No I don’t mean sending the boys round with a couple of bats, I mean the very gentle reminder to the airline that you are protected by law, they have legal obligations, and you have a small claims court application to hand. It is surprising how quickly things move along when you say that.

Unfortunately threats don’t always work and the more obtuse the airline the harder things are. This is where you have to stand your ground. As the European Court of Auditors stated in a special report, EU Passenger Rights are extensive, but passengers still need to fight for them. So if you do need to take the airline to the small claims court, don’t be afraid to do it, plenty of passengers have done it and succeeded.

Why You Need To Stand Your Ground.

The Civil Avaiation Authority and the Federal Aviation Authority – not to mention numerous governments – are failing miserably to hold airlines to account and keep them in check, so you have to.

This isn’t just about claiming back your money when the airlines fail to give the service that was promised and should be expected, it is about saying that the level of service they are offering is not acceptable, that failing to comply with legal rulings is not acceptable, that treating customers with contempt is not acceptable, and it is about providing the punitive oversight that other agencies are failing to give.

Because if everyone started doing this, and following it through, maybe the airlines would start to pull their socks up, because the biggest motivator is always losing money.

The way airlines treat their passengers is a genuine international disgrace, and they really can’t be allowed to continue to get away with it. I have claimed successfully numerous times, so the next time your flight is delayed or cancelled, you should too.

Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

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Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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Posted in Travel Advice, Travel Talk
8 comments on “The Truth About Airline Compensation Claims.
  1. Michelle says:

    This, this and so much this! Hopefully more people will start taking the airlines to court over the way they treat them. Honestly what other industry could do that?

  2. Hannah says:

    I am sick and tired of the way airlines treat passengers. The last six flights I have had have all been either heavily delayed or cancelled, and each and every one (all different airlines so it isn’t just one) have tried to get out of helping me, give me assistance or pay compensation. It is only when you demand your legal rights and quote the law to them they even budge an inch. They can’t keep getting away with it.

  3. Mark Harrison says:

    It’s about damn time someone said this!

  4. Maisy says:

    Well said, airlines need pulling into shape, they are just allowed to do whatever they like it is ridiculous.

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a former nurse turned published author and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent over twenty years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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