Under EU regulation, if your flight is cancelled or more than 3 hours late to arrive, you are entitled to a compensation of €250, €400 or €600, depending on the distance of the flight. This rule applies to all flights within the EU or between an EU airport and a non-EU airport.
Airlines don’t advertise this information publicly and we can understand their reasons. You still can ask for it and receive the money within a reasonable time frame providing you have the right information. It is hassle-free even when you make use of this template letter for delayed flight (on the courtesy of MoneySavingExpert). Europa has another form, but I reckon it would take longer to fill.
My husband and I flew to Barcelona with Vueling on a lovely Saturday morning in July. We would have to work the following Monday, so we booked an early flight from Amsterdam, hoping to maximise our sightseeing time in Barcelona. Little had we known that we would have to spend the most of our Saturday at the airport.
After a 15-minute walk from the main hall to the gate, we saw that our flight was delayed for two and a half hours. Schipol Airport was packed with holiday goers, so we had to walk a lot more before settling into two comfortable seats to do some work.
When morning turned into noon, I became hungry and annoyed so I went back to the gate for flight updates as well as food vouchers I know airlines provide for 2-hour delays. I got neither from the Vueling staff, but a piece of information that a guy told another guy while queueing. Apparently, airlines have to compensate like 250€ for long delays. A quick keyword search on Google took me to TripAdvisor and several money-saving sites, which confirmed my inadvertent informer. Irritated by the attitude of the counter staff and the long wait, I determined to try.
If you are as oblivious as I was then, read on for the guide to claiming back the money to which you are entitled. I won my case, having received €500 as a compensation for two people one month after I made the first contact. One form, three emails and a couple of hours researching was all it took.
Here's what you need to know:
Your Legal Base
It is your air passenger rights in the case of denied boarding, cancellation and long delay under EC Regulation 261/2004. Don't forget to refer to this specific regulation when claiming.
In the case of a delayed flight, your claim will only be valid if the plane arrives at the final destination at least 3 hours late. If your flight was 3 hours late to board but the pilot made up say 20 minutes when flying, you won't get compensated under this regulation.
The amount varies from €250 to €600 depending on the distance of the flight, so make sure you know what yours is, and quote it in the claim.
Check the facts to see if you are entitled and how much you are owed, then you proceed.
Send your complaint to the airline
Go to the airline's website and find out what the best way to contact them. Some want you to call while others require an online form or a postal letter. Play by their rule so that you can get a quick response.
If you want, you can use the provided template to save time and maximise the chance of getting your compensating money.
Follow up or take the further step
I heard from one blogger that British Airline will send you a cheque two weeks after you send the letter, providing your letter has all the required information. However, stories involving budget airlines like Vueling aren't the same. On TripAdvisor forums, many travellers shared that airlines just refused to pay them or simply ignore their communication. However, you should never give up after the first unfruitful attempt.
Vueling gave me an automated reply after receiving my complaint and I didn't hear back from them for 2 weeks, so I followed up with a short email, attaching my original claim:
"I have sent a letter of claim on 3 August 2016, but do not hear back from you. Please find the claim again below and I would expect a prompt reply this time."
I was pretty informal and didn't have to pose any threats. In less than a week, they sent me an email to ask for the details of my bank account. The money arrived a week later. Easy-peasy, right?
Vueling didn't refuse to pay me. They just needed a reminder of how persistent I could be. However, if your airline does refuse, you can bring your case to a regulator. I don't have any experience with this, but you can check Money Saving Expert for some advice.
Alternatively, there are many companies which would take care of your claim on your behalf. They often operate on a no-win-no-fee basis. You submit your flight information as well as personal details using their online tool. They calculate the amount you are entitled and take over. Once they win, they take 20% of the amount and you get 80% without having to do any legwork.
It sounds stress-free but I would only go to these companies after an airline has refused my initial claim, and I would choose the company carefully.
Spend the money
You have won and you should celebrate! 💃🏼💃🏼💃🏼
Nobody likes being kept at crowded and expensive airports. My husband and I were very annoyed even though we could work while waiting. When Vueling sent us the compensation, we decided we should do something special with it because we deserved it 😸. I thought of spending it on the latest Apple Watch, so we could remind Vueling about punctuality at the same time, but he thought it was rather mean. Besides, it made more sense if that special something was traveling-related. And that was what we did. Wait till the next post on how we spent our €500 😬
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