Frequent flyers often think that Europe has great consumer protections, and wish that the U.S. had something like ‘EU 261’ which provides cash compensation for flight delays as well as cancellations.
The problem, though, is airlines often just don’t pay when the regulations say that they should. And European governments often do not do any enforcement. Or they simply accept customer claims and never process them.
It can be enough of a hassle that I’ve often suggested readers turn their claim over to one of the companies that will submit on your behalf for a percentage of what they recover. However even that has risks. For instance,
- Finnair had a number of delays when they introduced the Airbus A350. These were maintenance delays, and a Finnish consumer board sided with passengers submitting compensation claims.
- However Finnair said ‘no, those are manufacturing defects and the fault of Airbus, not something covered by EU 261′. They sued the company pursuing these claims on behalf of passengers and that company filed bankruptcy.
- So Finnair went after the passengers who had made claims for $8,200 apiece in legal expenses, and successfully won a judgment. This was literally insane
So you have to root for a passenger that’s due compensation and sends bailiffs to collect from the airline. That’s just what happened in the U.K., when Wizz Air failed to pay. Bailiffs went out to London Luton airport.
The budget airline cancelled Russell Quirk’s flight from Portugal last year three hours before it was supposed to take off and suggested he book a new flight which would be refunded.
The last-minute flight for him and his family cost £2,500.
Despite the commitment, Wizz Air did not refund him until he had successfully lodged a court claim and bailiffs attended Luton Airport to recover the money.
It took 7 months and bailiffs showing up at the airport, but the passenger got the money. Sending a bailiff works because if staff don’t pay up, the bailiff can literally confiscate and sell office furniture and equipment. One Star Alliance airline even cancelled a flight in 2019 to avoid sending a plane where they knew a bailiff would be waiting.
The irony of course is that all of the passengers of that cancelled flight were then entitled to 250 euros apiece in EU 261 compensation – which you know that an airline willing to cancel a flight to avoid paying a single 250 euro claim is not going to pay.
(HT: Anthony H)