How to claim compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight?

cancelled flights

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of your flight in Europe being cancelled or delayed by more than three hours, you should consider Regulation (EC) No 261/2004. This European regulation provides passengers with rights in the event of a cancelled or delayed flight.

However, in order to maximize your chances of having a successful claim, as you proceed according to the regulation, there are several aspects to be taken into account. This article aims to guide you further in your endeavour and present some practical aspects that might prevent you from getting your rightful compensation.

Romanian Courts have created a somewhat consistent practice when it comes to legal actions concerning compensations awarded under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004. Thus, it becomes somewhat predictable whether your claim will be successful or not, by analysing a few key points.

How to claim compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight?

Firstly, you must ensure you can provide all the relevant documents that prove the situation you are presenting.

You will need to prove that you booked the flight with a booking confirmation and/or boarding pass. The booking confirmation is almost always mandatory for a delayed flight because it shows the planned time of departure and arrival. Therefore, you will need to reference the initial timetable to show that your flight was delayed by more than three hours.

However, if you have a boarding pass that has both the time of departure and the time of arrival, it will be sufficient to confirm your delay claim. In the case of a cancelled flight, any proof of booking is sufficient as the planned timetable becomes irrelevant.

Secondly, the most important thing is to provide proof of delay or cancellation, either in the form of an email or message received from the flight operator or a notice provided by a reliable source. The source of the proof of delay is very relevant as it directly affects the plausibility of your claim.

Finally, if the flight operator offers an alternative flight to your destination, you should also provide proof that displays the flight itinerary. That is necessary to show that, despite being offered a rerouting flight, you still arrived at your final destination with a delay more significant than 3 hours.

Once you have all the necessary documents, there are several possibilities regarding obtaining compensation. The flight operator can agree to pay the compensation after receiving a notice, or you can proceed with legal action.

In case your case goes to Court, the most common defence formulated by flight operators concerns the existence of extraordinary circumstances. Indeed, according to Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, the flight operator can be exempt from paying the compensation if he can prove that the cancellation or the delay was caused by an unpredictable event that the airline could not have prevented with all due diligence. The most common extraordinary events range from the aircraft being hit by a bird, extreme meteorological conditions, and insufficient staff at an airport.

Note that the airline’s defence often does not meet one of the two criteria established through jurisprudence to qualify a situation as an extraordinary circumstance. The two criteria are, proving the existence of the circumstance and showing the measures taken to minimize or avoid any inconvenience for the passengers. Thus, usually, the airline fails to provide any conclusive proof regarding the event itself and even more often, the airline remains completely passive when faced with a so-called extraordinary circumstance. As such, it is possible to prove the airline’s allegations wrong or false easily.

Considering all these aspects, remember that whenever you are entitled to compensation following Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, you should take the necessary steps to obtain it, as your chances can be high. Furthermore, consider that there are companies specialised in obtaining compensation in the name of the passengers, so you can choose this option if you do not want to pursue legal action yourself.

Oana Docan

Lawyer Hammond Partnership

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