Be Aware of Your Rights as a Flier
A new flight law on flier compensation and FlightRight and AirHelp can get you a refund
By Stephanie DiCarlo
If you’re a frequent traveler, you know the feeling. You’re waiting, jittery in your seat, for your flight to let you off the plane. You have a connecting flight to your destination, and it’s departure time is growing too close for comfort. If you don’t deplane soon, you’re going to miss your connecting flight. All you wanted was a relaxing vacation, or maybe a smooth business trip, or an exciting adventure to a new place. Not the stress of losing money and time trying to get there.
For many, when it comes to traveling, the flight is half the fun. It’s the hope of any traveler that their plane ride will go smoothly, that they’ll take off and land just as the neatly printed numbers on their flight itinerary say.
Sometimes, that doesn’t go as planned.
Maybe you’ve been one of the numerous unlucky, whose plane landed too late for you to catch your connecting flight, or you weren’t allowed to exit your plane quick enough. This, right here, is half of the problem. How does one define “lateness?” Sure, maybe the plane lands on time, but if you’re not let off soon after landing, it’s still not your fault that you miss your connecting flight.
According to a recent update to European travel laws, the European Court of Justice recently ruled that it is not the time the flight touches down on land that defines a flight’s arrival time, but the moment it opens its doors for passengers to depart the aircraft. This ruling has significant impact on passengers and airlines.
Tim Cox, part of public relations for Flightright, an organization dedicated to helping you understand your rights as a flight passenger, said, “The wider ramifications of this decision are also significant. For example, about 2.6 million passengers fly from London to New York every year, of which approximately 21 thousand passengers would be directly affected by the regulation. Collectively, they would be eligible for compensation of around $17 million.”
So how does flightright benefit from all of this? "When your claim is settled, we send you a check minus our success fee of 25%."
"For those passengers whose flight is running close to three hours behind schedule, this could mean the difference between an $800 compensation payout on nothing at all. Since the arrival time is now defined, passengers on delayed flights should make a careful note of the precise time that first door opened."
And for airlines, "The ruling puts a little more pressure on them to avoid delays, and refutes the idea that when the plan lands on the ground, it has 'arrived.'"
Lots of Money on the Line
A lot of money on the line with this law, which may not be the best news for airlines flying to and from Europe, but it’s great for flyers. For some, it’s finally gaining control over the unpredictability that flying entails.
As Marek Janetzke, managing director of Berlin-based flightright said, “We're always surprised by how many people have suffered substantial flight delays, and yet don't know the reason for the delay.”
In many ways, this new law exposes the ways in which airlines scam their passengers. A $17 million dollar scam! Yet despite this new law, there are ways for you to ensure yourself compensation on flights if you understand your rights as a flier.
If your flight is cancelled or delayed because of mechanical problems, you are eligible for compensation.
Not for Weather
Flights are not required to give compensation for weather problems, yet if you find the flight did not prepare for such conditions and is cancelled, you are eligible for compensation.
If your first flight in a pair of connecting flights is more than three hours delayed, you are eligible for compensation. If your flight is cancelled, and you are not notified at least 14 days beforehand, you are eligible for compensation.
"This ruling will be useful as we pursue delayed flight compensation cases on behalf of our customers. We have access to flight databases that record the touchdown time and on-block at-the-gate time, but not the time at which the plane door was opened. So the actual door-open time needs to recorded by the passenger making the claim. How this is proved in court will remain to be seen," said Tim Cox.
So, if a flight doesn’t go as planned, make sure that you’re in control of the situation. If you know your rights – and know the law, whether new or old – you’ll be more likely to get compensation, and things will go much more smoothly. In the end, money saved, and stress saved, goes a very long way.
Another resource that will help you get compensation is AirHelp. "AirHelp is a professional organisation helping passengers to get compensation for delayed, cancelled and overbooked flights under EU Regulation 261/2004. Compensation ranges between 250 EUR and 600 EUR depending on the distance flown and the length of the delay.
For more information on knowing your rights as a flier and flight compensation, check out flightright's website.
Stephanie DiCarlo is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and has a Bachelor's degree in English and History, as well as a specialization in creative writing. She also writes for the young adult literature magazine Ultimate YA and she likes to travel and eat good food. You can follow her on Twitter at @ccioSteph
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