unclaimed compensation for EU flight delays
23 Apr 2014

£3.5 Billion in Unclaimed Compensation for EU Flight Delays

Since the introduction of EU Regulation EC 261/2004, way back in 2004, an estimated £3.5 billion in compensation has been unclaimed by passengers who have had delayed or cancelled flights.

The Regulation was introduced to enshrine air passenger rights into EU law, to ensure passengers receive appropriate care when flights are delayed or cancelled, and compensation for inconvenience suffered when the airline did not take all reasonable measures to avoid and minimise flight delays.

Part of the reasoning behind the Regulation was based on the way that airlines made decisions based on cost, putting passenger rights secondary to financial considerations. Therefore it was considered that potential compensation payments would offset cost savings when the airlines made operational decisions, and incentivise the avoidance of long passenger delays.

Unfortunately this hasn’t worked as well as intended, though there has been some improvement over the last couple of years, particularly following certain landmark rulings in the European Court of Justice. However, often these rulings are overlooked when cases go through courts in England and Wales, or claimants do not have the in-depth legal knowledge required to fight their cases appropriately – especially when battling against expensive lawyers hired by airlines.

Another part of the problem has been that often passengers are unaware of their rights under EU law. Although the Regulation states that airlines have a legal obligation to inform passengers of their rights when delayed by over 3 hours, in practise airlines have often not complied with this law – leaving billions of pounds of compensation unclaimed.

Other reasons have contributed to the amount of compensation unclaimed, such as airlines being generally obstructive, often requiring ‘evidence’ or paperwork which passengers are unlikely to have kept. Some airlines even claim to require boarding passes in order to process a claim, but claims experts such as Claim4Flights can usually work round these obstructions with their insider knowledge.

Still further obstacles have deterred claimants, such as the airlines taking advantage of legal grey areas, including the time limit for lodging claims, or the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ exception to compensation being due. While the law is very clear in regards to the time limit for bringing claims (6 years under English and Welsh jurisdiction), this has not stopped certain airlines – notably Thomson – from fighting to the hilt to argue that shorter time limits apply.

However, the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ loophole is by far the most abused exception to compensation being paid. Simply put, this states that airlines should not have to pay compensation if delays or cancellations were genuinely beyond their control. In theory this was a fair approach from the EU lawmakers, but in practise it has been widely abused by the airlines who often cite ‘extraordinary circumstances’ to avoid valid compensation claims, and even sometimes write lengthy rejection letters with lots of valid-sounding legal arguments. It often takes an expert to see if these are ill-founded and untrue.

In light of this, EU lawmakers are hoping to clarify the law later this year, although there is the possibility that the criteria for compensation being due will be narrowed. The qualifying delay length will possibly be set at 5 hours, or maybe even longer, depending on the distance of the flight. While these changes may make compensation payable in fewer cases, it is hoped that compensation will be easier to claim in the cases where it is due.

In this ongoing battle for air passenger rights, some definite gains have been made. Airlines are now far more likely to treat passengers correctly when they suffer long delays, usually providing them with the refreshments or hotel accommodation they are entitled to under the Regulation. Figures also show that the number of compensation claims being made by better-informed passengers are also on the increase, with annual unclaimed compensation dropping from the average of £385 million per year. In 2012 unclaimed compensation dropped to £355 million, dropping even further to £240 million in 2012.

If you’ve had a flight delayed in the last 6 years into or out of an EU airport, you might be entitled to some of the unclaimed compensation for EU flight delays. If the delay was over 3 hours, out of an EU airport, or into an EU airport with an EU carrier, then you may be due compensation – if the airline cannot prove it was beyond their control, and outside the normal operations of an airline. Claiming this compensation can still be a tricky and time-consuming matter, so if you think you may be due compensation, we suggest you lodge your claim through experts like Claim4Flights.com, and let us do all the hard work so you don’t have to. Simply use our FREE online claim calculator to see what compensation may be due, then provide us with the necessary details and we’ll do the rest, including assisting you with legal action if appropriate. We look forward to handling your claim for you!


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Big thanks for the £304.70 transferred to my bank account today. My claim related to a three-leg flight from Norwich UK to Phoenix USA via Schiphol. The CAA suggested I had a good case but could do nothing because the delay occurred within Dutch jurisdiction. I twice did battle with KLM/Delta myself but they would not budge. Another claims firm tried but threw in the towel. So congratulations to Claim4Flights for taking it on and winning – and for getting the money transferred into my bank account within two days of notification. Very impressed!

Delta Airlines Flight – Andy, Norfolk from Delta Airlines £304.70 won 11th April 2017
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