Strikes, Cancelled Flights & Consumer Rights
Airline or air traffic controller strikes normally lead to havoc at airports as people want to know what they’re entitled to. If you’re not sure about your rights, and whether you’re entitled to any compensation, read on.
Flights that are delayed or cancelled due to “extraordinary circumstances” (such as strikes, bad weather and safety issues) aren’t eligible for compensation. These so called “extraordinary circumstances” would cover most issues on scheduled flights and hence airlines are in a very strong position to refuse to pay out anything.
Rescheduling Your Flight
First of all an airline that cancels a flight will have to try and place all affected passengers on to flights either with their own airline or with other companies. When industrial action is known about in advance, this rescheduling will take place some days beforehand so make sure you recheck your email often as this is where you’ll be notified of any changes. If you bought more than one ticket together, you may not be rescheduled on the same flights or even on the same days.
When you receive the notification of a change to your flight you will normally have to confirm your acceptance via the airline website. Alternatively you could call the airline, however be prepared for a long wait as many passengers will be in the same situation.
The only good news is that you may find companies make a temporary change to their general terms and conditions allowing you to make changes or cancel your ticket without any financial penalty.
Compensation and Reimbursement
In the case of industrial action passengers are not entitled to financial compensation but only to receive alternative transport, unless you’ve already opted for reimbursement of your ticket. If you bought your ticket directly from the airline and asked for your money back, this should be for the full purchase price and you should receive your money in a maximum of seven days (in cash, cheque or by bank transfer). You could also opt for travel vouchers or other services offered by the company to compensate the financial cost.
For those who bought their tickets at a Travel Agency, you’ll have to contact that Agency as they will have to carry out the reimbursement procedure on your behalf.
In either case, you may find that you are reimbursed the ticket price but not the administration cost or booking fee. Depending on the cost, it may be worthwhile contacting the airline or travel agency to try and get this refunded too.
What About the New EU Ruling on Compensation?
You may have read about some compensation success cases regarding delayed or cancelled flights, but as claims have to be made directly to the airline then it is difficult to know what may happen. Some airlines may mess you around hoping that you’ll get bored with waiting and others may directly say no but base their decision on incorrect legalities. If you´d like to check this out further, you can find more information at the EU Consumer Air Travel information webpage where they also have a complaint form that you can fill in to send to the airline.
Related posts: Guide to Getting a Tax Refund on a Cancelled Flight