In this success story, we look at the difficulty of taking claims directly to airlines, and how doing so may result in receiving compensation less than the value of what you are legally owed.
A family of four were scheduled to fly from Frankfurt, Germany to Baltimore, USA with US Airways. Two days prior to the date of departure, they were informed via email that their flight was cancelled because the aircraft was unavailable due to “prior operational cancellation”. The family was subsequently re-routed through Philadelphia, arriving more than four hours later than their scheduled flight was supposed to land.
Thankfully, EU Regulation 261/2004 exists to protect passengers in situations such as these.
In the case of a cancelled flight, eligibility depends on when passengers were informed about the change of flight schedule and what alternative means of transportation they were offered. These passengers were informed less than 7 days prior to departure, meaning they were entitled to compensation as the replacement flight left more than 2 hours after the original scheduled departure time and arrived with a delay of over 4 hours.
Furthermore, the flight originated inside the EU and was therefore covered by EU Regulation 261/2004 regardless of the fact that US Airways is not a European carrier.
A flight distance over 3500km to a destination outside the EU and a delay over 4 hours means the compensation value was 600EUR per person.
The family were aware of their passenger rights, and filed a claim directly with the airline. After months of silence, US Airways finally replied to them. But the offer wasn’t quite what they were expecting… Instead of their lawfully owed cash compensation, the family of four were offered one single flight voucher to the value of $600, with many restrictions on its use.
It is very lucky that these passengers were knowledgeable on EC261/2004, and refused this offer of compensation. In fact, the offer was likely a deceitful tactic commonly used by some airlines to avoid paying full compensation, something we wrote about previously in “Airline tricks part 2: what to look out for when claiming for delays, cancellations and overbookings”:
“As soon as you accept a travel voucher as compensation from an airline, you are no longer legally entitled to monetary compensation under EC 261/2004. Some companies use this to their advantage, and may try to immediately offer such things to avoid having to pay cash, which works out to be much cheaper for them.”
After denying the voucher, the passengers opened a claim with refund.me. The airline first tried to reduce compensation by 50%, offering each passenger 300EUR.
Our lawyers took US Airways to court in Germany and successfully won the family 2400EUR (600EUR each).
This is precisely why we always encourage passengers to first check their eligibility for cash compensation under EU law before accepting any offers directly from airlines.
If you’re unsure about what you might be owed, you can find out here in less than three minutes.