European Airline Claim Compensation: Q4 2016 Update

Consumer rights play a significant part of EU law, and nowhere is this more apparent than air travel. European carriers, and all worldwide carriers with flights originating from EU airports (28 member states, plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland) are mandated under EU regulation 261 to pay compensation to passengers in case of a cancelled flight, flight delays over 3 hours, and denied boarding.

Flight delays are measured as the difference between scheduled arrival and actual arrival times at the final destination. Today, a very large portion of delay claims originates from a small delay of the feeder flight A->B and then missing your connection B->C. Rebooking of the B->C leg usually results of a long delay at your journey destination C

The law requires the airlines to offer a procedure for passengers to claim this compensation, however many passenger may benefit from using the services of a claim compensation service such as, who will process the claim (taking the airline to court if necessary), and will only charge a percentage of the compensation amount if the claim is successful. No-win, no-fee.

As one of the largest claim processing companies in the industry, we have accrued a considerable amount of data related to claim processing that provides an interesting view of passenger flight compensation. Who are the worst offending airlines? Which airports are the worst for delays? How long does it take to process a claim? Here, we will answer these questions, and more.

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Airline Performance

Figure 1 - Compensation Claims By Airline - Q3 2016

Figure 1 – Compensation Claims By Airline – Q3 2016

The top question that many people want to know is: Which airline generates the largest number of claims for delayed and cancelled flights? Here we see the breakdown of claims received by airline for Q3 (July-September) 2016. Easily the largest number came from Vueling (18.6%), followed by Ryanair (9.4%), Easyjet (5.4%), and then Lufthansa (4%). Together, these four airlines comprise over 1/3 of all claim volume.

Now, it is important to note that although these airlines generate a lot of claims, they are also some of the largest airlines in Europe, therefore we should expect to see a large number of compensation claims. However, it is also important to note that the top three airlines for generating flight delay and cancellation compensation claims are all low-cost “budget” airlines. Furthermore, Vueling, Ryanair and Easyjet have been the top three airlines for delay claims in 3 of the past 4 quarters.

This may not be a complete surprise, since many people have come to expect delays from low-cost airlines, and have reluctantly accepted that delays come as part of the low price, however as we previously reported, these budget airlines also come with a lot of hidden costs, and travellers may be better off on a mainstream airline – both in terms of delays, and cost.

Are Airlines Getting Better, or Worse?

Figure 2 - Budget Airlines Trends in Compensation Claims

Figure 2 – Budget Airlines Trends in Compensation Claims

Over the past year, we have seen a distinct upward trend in claims from low cost airlines. One year ago, the top three budget airlines accounted for 23% of all claims, vs 34% as of end September 2016. As you can see from Figure 2, each airline has it’s ups-and-downs for volume of claims, with one airline in particular – Vueling – appearing to trend upwards more significantly than its peers.

Which Airports Generate The Most Claims?

Figure 3 – Departure Aiport of Compensation Claims

When choosing a flight, it’s useful to know which airports are prone to delays. By looking at the departure airport of compensation claims, we can get a good idea of which are worst airports for flight delays and cancellations.

Data from claims submitted July 2016 to September 2016 shows a very flat distribution, with delays spread out among many European airports (to be expected, since budget carriers tend to use many secondary airports) – however there is a noticeable increase in delays at major national airports. Specifically, Barcelona (BCN), London Heathrow (LHR), Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG), Rome (FCO), Amsterdam (AMS), Madrid, (MAD), London Gatwick (LGW), Frankfurt (FRA), Paris Orly (ORY) and Vienna (VIE) stand out as the top 10 departure airports for delayed or cancelled flights.

Reasons for Compensation Claims

Figure 4 - Reasons for Claim

Figure 4 – Reasons for Claim

Regulation EU261 provides for claims due to long delays (over 3 hrs), cancelled flights and denied boarding (usually due to overbooking). Long delays are measured against the scheduled arrival time, so if a flight gets rescheduled or rerouted with a stopover that pushes the arrival later that 3 hours past schedule, this will count as a valid claim for a long delay. As we can see from Figure 4, the majority of claims are for delayed flights (as said above, the majority of these delays are due to missed connection flights of the type A->B->C).

Average Claim Value

Figure 5 - Average Claim Value

Figure 5 – Average Claim Value

Claim compensation under EU 261 is defined by law, and is determined primarily by the distance of the journey. Figure 5 shows the average compensation claim value for claims received July – September 2016. The largest proportion of claims are for €250. The number of  €600 claims is also significant – these larger claims are generally triggered by long international flight delays. Since these flights tend to use much larger aircraft, when they do occur, they impact a larger number of passengers. Additionally, the larger compensation payout tends to motivate more travellers to make that claim.

Advice for Flyers

The data in this article provides one of the most revealing looks at airline performance using real data from real delays, processed by one of largest claims handling companies in the industry. Our advice to passengers:

  • Carefully consider your choice of airline when making flight plans. Make sure you understand all of the hidden costs when considering a budget airline, and if possible, avoid the primary airports in major European capitals.
  • Know your rights: EU261 gives passengers the right to compensation for delays over 3 hours, for flight cancellation, and for denied boarding. The EU261 is amended by ECJ rulings to provide compensation for missed connections, under certain circumstances. They must also provide you with reasonable refreshments and other benefits during the delay.
  • Pay attention to code sharing information. You might be eligible for compensation even if you fly on a ticket from a non-European carrier such as Delta, American Airline, Air China, Air India and many hundred others. What matters, is who operates the flight. If the flight is operated by an European carrier, you might even be eligible if travelling from outside the EU (e.g. Tokyo, New York, New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing) to anywhere in the European Union (plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland).