Flight delays and cancellations are a headache for travellers, often missing out on crucial parts of their travel itinerary as a result. Luckily, EU law means that under certain circumstances passengers are due compensation to make up for the disruption. Despite this, new research suggests that many UK airlines are flouting these guidelines, apparently “wrongfully rejecting valid claims for compensation”.
The research, carried out by passenger rights organisation AirHelp, suggests that travellers across the country could be owed money for their travel disruption – even if an airline has denied the claim.
Air Help collated its findings using hundreds of thousands of its own claims between 1 January and 31 October.
Air Help goes on point the finger at some of the UK’s most popular airlines, including Ryanair, easyJet, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
According to the research, 56 percent of all valid claims to airlines are rejected on wrongful grounds.
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Flights: New research suggests many British UK airlines owe compensation
Ryanair is said to reject 98.5 percent of all valid compensations claims, an increase of eight percent compared with 2018.
Passengers who submit valid claims are reported to have only received compensation they are entitled to in the first instance a mere two percent of the time.
The passenger rights organisation goes on to state that easyJet rejects 87.3 percent of claims that have been identified as eligible and Virgin Atlantic, 73.7 percent.
Meanwhile, British Airways is said to have rejected 66.6 percent of “valid claims” in 2019.
However, the airlines refute the research.
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A spokesperson for easyJet told express.co.uk: “We do not recognise and absolutely refute Airhelp’s statistics, and always pay compensation when it is due.
“We take our responsibilities under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 extremely seriously and encourage passengers to claim directly so those eligible receive 100 per cent of their compensation.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for our passengers to claim directly from us using a simple online webform so they get their full compensation rather than losing significant amounts to organisations like AirHelp.”
Similarly, Ryanair added: “Ryanair has a fair, fast and transparent compensation system for customer claims. We have a dedicated team that processes valid claims within 10 days, which is an industry-leading standard.
“Consumers are better off claiming directly from the airline, as valid claims will be paid much faster and in full, without the claim chaser fee which can be up to 40%.
“For more on passenger rights please see here: https://www.ryanair.com/ie/en/useful-info/disruptions-and-refunds/eu-regulation-261-passenger-rights”.
Express.co.uk has additionally contacted British Airways and Virgin Atlantic for their take on the findings.
Flights: Delays that exceed a certain length are often eligible for compensation
Paloma Salmeron, air passenger rights expert at AirHelp, said: “Yet again research shows airlines aren’t playing fair, it is little wonder two-in-three passengers give up after their initial claim was rejected.
“AirHelp’s investigation into the claims handling by airlines exposes their blatant attempt to shirk their legal responsibility and reveals how much support passengers need to exercise their rights.
“It is wildly unfair for airlines to reject compensation claims as a tactic to avoid giving passengers what is rightfully theirs. On average, airlines have rejected over 30percent more claims this year, than in 2018.
“EC261 is in place to empower passengers and should not be used by airlines as smoke and mirrors allowing them to shirk their legal responsibility.”
“If passengers believe their claim has been wrongfully rejected by an airline, our advice is not to give up. Passengers should keep hold off all travel documents as these are crucial if their claim needs to be escalated with legal assistance. Affected travellers should also note that they have three years following a flight disruption to file a claim.”
What is EU compensation law?
According to EU law, if a flight is delayed for more than a specified amount of time the affected airline is responsible for giving food and drink, access to phone calls and emails, and accommodation if they are delayed overnight.
If accommodation is required passengers are also entitled to journeys between the airport and hotel.
Often airlines distribute vouchers for the listed things at the airline.
Citizens advice UK suggests: “If they don’t give you help at the airport, keep receipts for expenses and try to claim from the airline later.
“Airlines only pay for ‘reasonable’ expenses – you are unlikely to get money back for alcohol, expensive meals or luxury hotels.”
Flight operators must also offer passengers the option to book on the next available flight, even if it is with a competing provider, or a full refund of the ticket amount.
However, if the delay or cancellation is due to an “extraordinary circumstance”, they do not owe compensation.
This includes circumstances such as bad weather or strike action.
Meanwhile, passengers who have suffered a short delay are not entitled to compensation.
According to the CAA: “If you have only been delayed slightly, you may not be entitled to compensation.”