27 Feb Five major airlines face legal action for refusing to pay passengers for flight delays
Five major airlines have been warned they face legal action for refusing to pay passengers delay compensation due under European law.
American, Etihad, Emirates, Singapore and Turkish Airlines, all based outside the EU, were rounded on by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, which said each carrier had admitted that they do not pay compensation if a delay to the first leg of a journey means that the passenger misses a connecting flight, arriving at their destination more than three hours late. The CAA said that under European rules, passengers are legally entitled to compensation if they arrive at the final destination of their journey more than three hours late – including if booked on a connecting flight.
Therefore it argues that compensation should be paid for delay caused by missing a connecting flight. Passengers are legally entitled to compensation in the form of a cash payment of up to €400 (£338), or €600 (£508) for delays of more than four hours on flights of over 3,500km.
This includes all flights departing from the EU, regardless of the airline’s nationality, and also covers connecting flights. The only exemption is if the airline can claim the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances. Richard Moriarty, director of consumers and markets at the CAA, said the airlines’ refusal to pay was disappointing. “Any disruption to a flight is frustrating for passengers, but delays that cause people to miss connecting flights have a particularly damaging effect on people’s travel plans,” he said.
“That’s why there are clear laws in place to make sure passengers that experience this type of disruption are looked after by their airline and compensated when the disruption was in the airline’s control.” The legal arm of consumer body Which? join in condemning the airlines. “It is appalling that some airlines believe they are above the law and do not have to pay the compensation they are legally entitled to,” said Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home and legal services.
“It should be much simpler for passengers to claim money for delays and the Government must legislate for a new ombudsman that all airlines are required to join.” He called on the Government to ensure that British travellers do not lose their rights after the UK leaves the EU. In addition to the airlines denying passengers compensation – the CAA says Singapore Airlines currently places such claims “on hold” – the CAA has also started enforcement action against Vueling, a sister airline of British Airways, for “failing to comply with the minimum standards for care and assistance” in the event of a delay.
“Where we see evidence of passengers systematically being denied their rights, we will not hesitate to take the necessary action to ensure airlines change their policies and their customers get the assistance they are entitled to,” added Moriarty. The CAA said that Turkish Airlines has given their customers access to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service to deal with compensation claims, but urged the remaining four carriers to follow suit. A spokesperson for Etihad Airways said it had been in discussions with the CAA with regards to missed connections compensation. It said the organisation’s approach to “publicly shame” airlines was “unprofessional and unacceptable”.