When Airline Refuses To Pay Flight Compensation, Passenger Sends Bailiff To Collect The Money

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)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Grandstanding over around $3000 in total reimbursement. Just let it go. How many hours of his time did he burn trying to get this back. I can’t imagine where any amount under maybe $10,000 is worth people’s time. Are people so broke that a few thousand (or in some cases a few hundred) actually matter? Really? Maybe I’m just an out of touch 1%er retired white guy that can’t connect with the “common man” but chasing pennies (relatively speaking) is IMHO a waste of my time and seems at a certain point like you are begging.

  2. Love the bailiff route. If EC261 would provide stiff penalties for delayed payment then the airlines would pay up in a hurry.

  3. @ at Retired

    Such a warm human being, filled with compassion, as well as concern for his fellow human being. All persons deserve better than you.

  4. Would love to have done this to TAP Air Portugal years ago but didn’t have endless hours on my hands to get the demand letter enforced

  5. My $2,400 ‘EU 261’ claim was paid in about 90 days by Air Canada, due to delay (for 4 passengers) which occurred in late July 2022, at LIS. Full payment was processed, mailed, and received at beginning of November.

  6. @Retired
    As of November, 2022, 63% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck, according to a monthly LendingClub report — up from 60% the previous month and near the 64% historic high hit in March.

    Even high-income earners are under pressure, LendingClub found. Of those earning more than six figures, 47% reported living paycheck to paycheck, a jump from the previous month’s 43%.

  7. @Retired
    The reason the airlines are so cavalier about not refunding money is because they know no one will do anything about it. Someone has to (or in reality many have to) take a step like this as a matter of principle, even if it results in a net gain of zero or even a loss, or nothing will change.

  8. Actually very little time is needed to recover monies under £5K in the UK. You apply online to the small claims court (county court) the defendant makes their case or doesn’t and a judgement is made. If as in this case the defendant doesn’t pay up then sending in the bailiffs is also a few clicks and an online payment away these costs also recoverable; just added to the amount awarded.

  9. How is Lufthansa doing? Cancelled flights by their own admission of computer glitch compounded by security worker strike caused turmoil at Frankfurt airport. Lufthansa and partners, e.g., United Airlines, rejected any responsibility for hundreds of US destination passengers.

  10. @Kalboz – sucks for them. Fully retired now (hence the name) but was a senior IT executive of a number of national companies and partner in a consulting firm (plus ran my own). Lucky enough to make high 6 figures and low 7 figures a number of years. Basically living off dividends, income from writing options and a couple of small pensions. Could get max SS (but plan to wait until 70 for that).

    Not all is great – lost a million in market last year but definitely not worried about day to day expenses or a few thousand bucks

  11. @ Retired Gambler. Nobody cares about you. They care about their own time and money. And, since airlines can be so picky about nickels and dimes, sometimes they need to kick the airlines in the teeth and get justice.

  12. @Retired
    Makes sense to me — precisely because I’m retired. If time is what I have, being retired, it cannot be a waste of my time to pursue compensation for the airline-induced waste of my time and my money.

    And, how much time did it take for him to lodge a small claim and pursue it. 10-20 hours, maybe? In the U.S., court clerks are very helpful with filing a small claim. I assume they are in the U.K., too. There is no discovery in either place. So, it’s not terribly time consuming. That’s £125-250 per hour — about the median for what people in the U.K. make. (According to Statistica, the U.K. annual average salary is £33,000/ year, or about £165/hour based on a 2,000 hour straight time work year.)

  13. @ Retired Gambler — Keep broadcasting your wealth here and someone with nothing better to do will sue you just because. And, why do you think anyone cares? What an amazing retirement you have, speding your days commenting on this blog, just like us poor working slobs.

  14. @Retired, can you scan and upload your airline employee badge? Or do you just hold a lot of stock in one the dog crap carriers? Either way, you’re a joke.

  15. @Gene – you are crazy. Sue me for what? Like you even could figure out who I am someone has to have cause, standing and harm to sue (know a little about the law). Also my time is spent traveling, gambling (mainly WSOP poker events), traveling the world and just enjoying life. Trust me my life isn’t anything g like a “working slob”

  16. Hi Retired Gambler: You can sue me for calling you on the phone and I can sue you for answering. Anybody can sue anybody else for any reason in the United States. Winning is a separate issue. Either way you have to pay to defend yourself. Let me ask you this: how would you feel if you took $3,000 worth of chips from the table or a $3,000 voucher from a slot machine to the cage and they thanked you very much for giving it to them while giving you nothing in return? Would it be worth your time to pursue it? And if you decided it wasn’t worth your time and they got away with it you think they might try it again with somebody else?

  17. “ That’s £125-250 per hour — about the median for what people in the U.K. make. (According to Statistica, the U.K. annual average salary is £33,000/ year, or about £165/hour based on a 2,000 hour straight time work year.)”


  18. Retired Gambler. Yes you really are out of touch if you think 3k is throw away money for the average passenger. Having a Bailiff involved was a great idea and certainly got the airlines attention. My wife and I make six figures and I will still fight for $20 if I feel it is justified.

  19. @ retired gambler

    I’m older than you are. Now that I am retired from my firm, I can litigate against banks, insurance co., etc. on behalf of people that could not otherwise afford me. Why don’t you offer you high powered consulting to not-for-profits so as to make yourself useful?

  20. If more consumers held dishonest companies accountable, said companies would have a powerful incentive to act honorably. I, for one, am grateful to fellow consumers who expose corporate malfeasance.

  21. @retired. You’re no.more a retired gambler than I am the king of Sheba. Fake jerk troll looking for reactions and are probably a very overweight 40 year old sitting in a YMCA wondering how your life got this bad.

  22. Sometimes it is about the principle of the thing. One time a telecom company charged me for something I didn’t owe, using a practice called slamming, which was a violation of FCC rules. If they’d just reversed it when I asked, that would have been the end of it. But they wouldn’t. It was just $40, but I thought they were likely doing it to millions of people, and someone should make them stop. So I filed a detailed complaint, fact-based, including all correspondence, with the FCC. At one point, there were three different law firms involved for the company and two related entities. But they did agree to stop the practice. I did get my $40 back, but more importantly, they stopped taking advantage of people who didn’t know how to fight back.

    Another time I filed a successful DOT complaint against two airlines for not honoring a COC on ticket changes. It was pretty clear it was caused by the involvement of an OTA and the inability of the systems to work together. But I didn’t think that large corporations should be able to simply not follow the rules because it would require a manual override. (It helped when one of the airlines made a false statement in a submission to the FCC, which I promptly pointed out with a screenshot from their own website.)

  23. @Kalboz

    Quit falling for clickbait articles pn people living “paycheck to paycheck”.

    Many people have 401s, savings, etc taken out of their paycheck before it reaches them. So they have money in savings and investment plans. They aren’t destitute.

    I got a small “paycheck” for years before I had my money directed before it even got to me. Enough to retired in my 40s.

    So stop falling for those articles.

  24. LOT Polish Airlines processed our 600 euros (times 2) in about 40 days. That was for broken J seats which resulted in a rebooking on BA and VS, delaying our return by a day. I really didn’t want to take a downgrade on my birthday. The real annoyance was that our luggage didn’t make it. We finally got it back after 23 days, with no explanation as to where it got stuck.

  25. To the comment for retired Gambler…I can’t believe he said are people so broke that they would try and recover less then 10,000 euros….First of all it’s PRInCIPaL…that they not get away with this…Secondly…I’m that broke…and a lot of people are give me a break…glad life went so well for you…but it doesn’t for ..everyone….very out of touch comment to make

  26. I was a NYS Court Officer who was bumped from an Air Jamaica flight back to the US.
    The staff in Jamaica was very arrogant ( maybe why they are out of business..) I filed a small claim case against them on returning to NY. They failed to appear, but I had documentation anyway.. I ask the sheriff to execute the judgement and collect my funds. The arrogant NY Air Jamaica staff decide to call the police on the NY sheriff. The police laugh when they arrived.
    The Sheriff threaten to go to Kennedy Airport and seize one of their jets.
    Air Jamaica paid the judgement.

  27. Hey @retired stfu you yes you are completely out of touch, or more likely a total liar!

  28. @retired gambler

    Yes. You are obviously completely out of touch!
    Aside from not being able to afford losing money – why would we just give our hard-earned money to the airline to let them steal it?
    I don’t Gamble. I work hard for my money. I’m not just giving it away to a business that refuses to provide services paid for.

  29. @Retired Gambler
    Crazy that $1,000 could change an entire month for most people; And most would do almost anything for a $1,000.

    And, based on your reply, a $1,000 wouldn’t change how your hour was going; And you wouldn’t do anything for a $1,000.

    Although, I bet if/when you surprise someone in *legitimate need with a $1,000, the feeling you get is priceless.

    *A young family that is struggling to pay regular bills because their baby has cancer. (For example)

  30. This gem: ‘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’.

    How’s that for the delusional left in the US? who just love to brag about the wonderful and fair ‘Nordic Socialism’ LOL

    That’s what you get when you give even more power to the real enemy.. Government!

  31. I had carry on luggage with Ryanair yesterday from a flight to Malta from Seville in Spain, when asked to pay the fee of €45 I went to pay in cash and I was refused, they only accepted card, my card wouldn’t work on their machines, I was refused entry, denied boarding, it’s against the Law to refuse cash payment in Spain, I now have to wait an extra two days and fly with another airline.

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