If an airline plays stupid games, it’s going to win stupid prizes.
Like many carriers, United Airlines and Lufthansa operate a ‘joint venture’ where they share revenue for their operations across the Atlantic. There’s not supposed to be any difference between traveling on a United flight or a Lufthansa flight. Both airlines put their flight codes on the other carrier’s flights. That means United sells Lufthansa flights as though they were United flights with a United flight number, and vice versa.
But if Lufthansa is going to sell United flights as though the fights were their own, then those flights become subject to European consumer protection rules. Specifically, EU compensation applies when a flight originates in Europe and the itinerary connects in the U.S. according to a new court ruling.
EU travellers who book flights through a European airline can claim compensation in the event of a major delay of the connecting flight — even outside Europe, a court ruled on Thursday.
In its judgement, the European Court of Justice said that the entirety of a journey that was subject to a single reservation fell under the EU’s rules on flight delays, even if the flight was operated by a non-EU airline.
The case involved a journey booked through German carrier Lufthansa for three passengers from Brussels to San Jose in California, with a stopover in Newark.
A 3 hour 43 minute delayed arrival traveling United Airlines Newark – San Jose triggered EU compensation liability. But since the trip started in Brussels, United was liable for 600 euros per passenger.
What You’re Entitled To For European Flight Delays
EU regulation 261 (2004) requires airlines to compensate passengers between €250 and €600 cash for flight delays of over 3 hours, for cancellations, and for involuntary denied boardings due to overbooking. The amount depends on the distance of the flight.
This applies to flight departures from EU countries, and it applies to flights headed to the EU on airlines based there. It also includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. And it applies to award tickets not just paid tickets.
Compensation even applies to cancellations that happen in advance, not just the day of departure. In fact if the cancellation happens within two weeks of departure an airline has to pay compensation unless they can provide transportation more than two hours earlier that arrives no more than four hours later than originally scheduled. The rules get more stringent within a week of departure.
Handling A Claim Yourself
You can simply write to the airline’s customer service something to the effect of,
I am writing regarding flight NUMBER on [date] from AAAA to BBBB with scheduled departure time of XX:XX. My record locator is ZZZZZZZ and ticket number 0000000000.
This flight arrived TK hours late [or “was cancelled and I arrived on flight ABC at XX:XX on Y date.”] Therefore I am requesting compensation under EC Regulation 261/2004.
The flight was XYZ kilometers therefore I am seeking €[amount].
Thank you for your assistance. I look forward to your reply within 14 days.
To be clear, if you file a claim and the airline doesn’t honor it, you cannot sue in a U.S. court. There are several third party services that will take your claim and try to collect for a portion of the fee. But you do bear some risk.
(HT: Alan Z)