Airlines may face action for denying flight delay compensation

26 mars 2017

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is telling five major airlines "not so fast" when it comes to refusing to compensate passengers for missing connecting flights due to delays. The rules are more stringent in Europe than in other places, but parts are also murky enough to cause confusion. 

American Airlines, Etihad, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines, all non-EU airlines, are being told by the CAA that they must pay compensation to passengers who missed connecting flights due to delays. Under EU rule 261, airlines are required to compensate passengers who are inconvenienced by delays or cancellations within the airline's control based on the length of the flight and the time the passengers finally arrive at their destinations. The rules not only apply to EU-based airlines, but to any airline flying from a member state. 

The confusion arises from a provision of the rules that relieves airlines from paying compensation if a delay or cancellation is caused by something out of their control, like weather events or even work stoppages. Mechanical, crew scheduling and other intra-airline causes are often ruled within the airline's control and thus require airlines to pay compensation depending on the length of the delay, the eventual arrival time of the passenger, and the length of the original flight. Basic care and information is usually required in all cases, including phone calls, food and in some instances accommodations. 

In addition to the issue of extraordinary circumstances, which many airlines cite as a reason to deny compensation, the issue of missed connections has also presented a grey area until recently. Court rulings have added the delay and cancellation compensation provisions to instances where passengers miss connecting flights. Passengers who arrive more than three hours late to their destinations, regardless if it's on an original flight or a connecting flight, are entitled to compensation if the delay is caused by an event within an airline's control. 

Passengers who are denied the compensation they are due can file claims with enforcement bodies available in each member state. There are also third party companies that offer to do all the legwork to claim compensation in exchange for a fee or part of the compensation amount. Some passengers have taken their cases all the way to court which has resulted in some rulings that have actually clarified some ambiguities in the law over the years. Here is some background information on EU passenger rights.