How do I get compensation for delayed or cancelled flights?

compensation for flight delay
Published on: 2 January 2019

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The day has come to go on holiday and, with all the excitement in the world, he arrives at the airport with his luggage. However, as you enter the terminal, you realise that your flight has been delayed - or worse, cancelled. What options are available to you? From our civil law firm we would like to show you what your rights are in this respect and what you should do to obtain the relevant compensation from the airlines.

What compensation is available for flight delays or cancellations?

The first thing you should know is that, according to current case law within the European Union, any flight that has been delayed for more than three hours must be considered cancelled for the purposes of claims, even if it finally takes off and arrives at its destination.

In any case, if you are faced with the problem that your flight has been definitively cancelled, you should bear in mind that you are entitled to receive this compensation:

  • Flights up to 1500 kilometres: 250 €.
  • Flights to destinations within the European Union that exceed 1500 kilometres: €400.
  • International flights to destinations outside the European Union between 1500 and 3500 kilometres: €400.
  • Flights over 3500 kilometres to any destination: 600 €.

However, this compensation is simply compensation that the airline must pay you to compensate you for the damages caused by the cancellation of your flight. In addition, the airline is obliged to find you an alternative flight so that you can reach your destination as soon as possible. In fact, European legislation on this matter provides for the possibility that, in the event that the company can provide the passenger with a seat on another flight departing at a similar time (within three hours before or after the cancelled flight), the compensation will be reduced to 50%.

Furthermore, you should note that if the flight is cancelled due to an extraordinary circumstance, you will not be entitled to such compensation. We refer, for example, to a terrorist attack forcing the interruption of air traffic in a country through which the flight has to pass during the journey, an unforeseen strike of air traffic controllers, etc.

However, if the airline company claims bad weather in order not to pay you the relevant compensation, it must have given you at least two weeks' notice that there was a possibility that the flight would be cancelled or, failing that, offer you an alternative flight with the same destination and at a similar time.

What happens to the reimbursement of the ticket?

If the flight has been definitively cancelled or if the delay exceeds 5 hours, in addition to the compensation, you are entitled to have the amount you paid for the airline ticket reimbursed to your account. In this respect, some disputes often arise as there is no uniformity of criteria between the 3 hours contemplated by European jurisprudence and the 5 hours taken into account by the other legislations. The refund will of course also affect the return ticket.

Your flight has been delayed by more than 5 hours but you want to take it the next day?

It is more common than you might think, when you book a trip to a foreign country and buy your return tickets several months in advance, for airlines to have problems with overbooking. This basically means that they sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane, which means that some travellers have to stay on the ground. What should you do in this case?

Normally, the airline will give you the opportunity to travel to your destination the next day, especially if you are in a foreign country. In this sense, in addition to paying you compensation (overbooking cases are considered as cancelled flights for those who cannot board the plane), the airline is obliged to provide you with a meal allowance during your stay, a hotel room for the days you have to spend there and money for telephone calls. In addition, you will be obliged to pay for travel from your accommodation to the airport.

Where, how and when should you file your flight delay or cancellation claim?

Do not wait a second once you have confirmation that your flight has been delayed or cancelled to make a claim. This can be done at the office within the departure airport premises of the airline with which you booked your flight tickets. All you have to do is go to the counter, request and fill in the official EU complaint form and then hand it in to the staff there.

In case the airline office is closed or the staff refuses to deal with your request, you can automatically go to the Aena customer service counter and submit your complaint there.

It is also possible that, for one reason or another, you may not be able to do so at the airport itself. If this is the case, don't worry. The Autonomous Communities have official consumer bodies that will give you the possibility of lodging your complaint and dealing with the process with guarantees. Of course, you can also put the case in the hands of a civil law firm to take care of it and manage everything.

What happens if your luggage is lost or damaged?

Unfortunately, this is also more common than would be desirable. On many occasions, users are unpleasantly surprised to find that their luggage does not come off the conveyor belt when they disembark from their flight, or that it is significantly damaged.

If this happens to you, the first thing you should know is that the company you have flown with, from the very moment it handed over your bag to be checked in, is directly responsible for the damage or loss of your luggage. Therefore, if it is not there for you to pick it up or it has suffered any damage, it is obliged to take care of it and, consequently, to pay you compensation.

What you should do in this type of case is to go to the company's office in the arrivals terminal of the destination airport. It is important that you go as soon as you get off the plane and check that your suitcase has been lost or damaged. If you leave the airport without making a claim, the airline may not take care of your case.

Once at the counter, ask for and fill in the Baggage Irregularity Report (PIR). Hand it in there or, failing that, at the office of the company responsible for baggage handling on the ground. They will usually provide you with various tools to help you keep track of your baggage.

If it is not found within three days, you will have to make a new claim, this time for compensation. Finally, if the luggage is not found within 21 days, it will be considered lost and you will receive compensation from the responsible airlines.

We hope we have been of help to you in clarifying your rights in the matter of lost or cancelled flights or in the matter of lost or damaged luggage. Contact G.Elías y Muñoz Abogados for any related queries, and our expert lawyers in civil law will be happy to provide you with assistance.

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