Passengers delayed by European airlines for 2 or more hours will now be compensated up to $850 per passenger!
In an historic ruling by the European Court of Justice, yesterday, two Austrians and two Germans were awarded damages against Air France and Condor airlines for having been delayed. The justices then expanded the civil suit into a new European regulation.
It was not immediately clear whether the ruling will be applied to all passengers or only passengers holding European citizenship. Since the ruling didn’t specify, it’s likely that foreign nationals delayed in Europe by European airlines will be able to demand the compensation, at least for the time being until the issue is contested.
The ruling is comprehensive and cutting. Compensation is awarded if a flight of 1500 km or less is delayed for more than 2 hours. (About 930 miles: for example, London to Venice). Long-haul flights of more than 1500 km receive compensation if the delay is 3 hours or more. And any flight, of any length, delayed more than four hours receives compensation.
The Court plugged a possible loop-hole and said that airlines couldn’t protect themselves from this ruling by canceling a flight just to avoid the compensation.
In other words, a London to Venice flight that is ready to go 2 hrs and 5 min after scheduled departure would not have the option of canceling the flight just a second before 2 hours in order to avoid then paying compensation.
Moreover, the judges restricted all exceptions to the ruling (such as “technical problems” which allowed airlines up to this point to avoid earlier court rulings) to events which “by their nature or origin are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned and are beyond its actual control.”
The compensation may come in the form of services. And these are “minimum” services that if they exceed the $850 per person must still be offered. They include:
* Two free phone calls, faxes or e-mails;
* Free meals and refreshments; and
* Free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if an overnight stay is required.
And finally, if the delay is more than 5 hours, in addition to the compensation, the airline must agree to refund the ticket in full.
This is major.
For a long time American passengers have trailed behind the rights of passengers in other developed parts of the world. This is particularly true of travel insurance, which European governments mandate must be much more comprehensive, and cheaper, than what Americans get.
The hidden surcharges and taxes on advertised American ticket prices would never be allowed in Europe. The current “special” by United Airlines of only a $390 roundtrip fare between Chicago and London becomes $780.10 when actually ticketed!
American deregulation cheats the customers and ultimately destroys the airlines. The rampant deregulation that began in 1983 migrated across the pond, but European regulators are now pulling back the reigns, as they should.
Will we be able to, too?