It’s every traveler’s worst nightmare: you’ve gathered up all your necessary travel documents and made your way to the airport two hours before your flight is due to depart only to discover that flight itself has been delayed. Or worse, canceled. This type of situation can happen to anyone at any time. It doesn’t matter if you’re flying economy with a large airline or have booked a private jet charter for your convenience; delays and cancellations happen to everyone. In the past passengers only had to let out a sigh of frustration, find a comfortable chair and wait out the suspension with all of the rest of the passengers in the terminal. But as of 2004 things have changed – and here’s why.
Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004
As of 2004, the European Union established a law that would protect passengers’ rights in the event of severe delays or cancellations that were a direct result of negligence on the part of the airline in question. The law stated that if a flight was delayed by more than three hours, a passenger would be entitled to compensation of between €250 to €600, be given any refreshments or sustenance that they require, be put up in a hotel for a night if required, and be rerouted on the next available flight to their destination. The exact amount depends on many factors such as the length of the delay, the distance that the flight was traveling and whether or not it was leaving from an airport located within the European Union. If the delay is shorter than three hours, or if it occurred because of something that was outside of the airline’s control, then no compensation will be awarded to passengers. That means if you get stuck in an airport because of bad weather, then there’s not too much you can do about it but wait. If, however, the airline you’re traveling with overbooks the flight, accidentally messes up your booking or is responsible for your flight is delayed or canceled in any way, then you have all the rights in the world to complain and receive aid and compensation.
If you find yourself in the questionably lucky position of having to claim compensation, there are many different ways to go about it.
First and foremost is to speak to the customer service desk of the airline as soon as you’re aware of any delays with your flight – the employees there will be able to give you meal vouchers, hotel rooms and anything else you’ll need immediately. But they probably won’t be able to provide you with monetary compensation on the spot. Likely you’ll probably have to email the airline’s online customer service department and inquire there. However, airlines are notorious for taking exceptionally long to reply to any emails (up to six weeks), so to process your claim faster; it’s helpful to go through a claims company. These companies, such as AirHelp, can quickly handle your request and ensure you get your compensation promptly. This doesn’t apply just for flights; they can also ensure that you receive compensation should your luggage or be lost or delayed in transit.