As you will know if you have read our blog post on the subject, EU law states that passengers can claim compensation for overbooked, delayed or cancelled flights.
It seems, however, that not all of us who are entitled to claim actually do so. In fact, according to German compensation claims firm Flightright, there is more than half a billion pounds unclaimed by some 1.6 million travellers in the UK.
Their figures are based on an evaluation of 3 million flights, and it is not just Brits who are proving to be unsavvy travellers. German passengers have failed to claim over £468 million, Spanish over £400 million and French over £355 million. Passengers have up to six years to make their claim so it is not too late.
A few weeks ago, the tail end of Hurricane Bertha caused misery for travellers and many flights were cancelled or delayed. One passenger who had come down to London for the weekend and was due to return to Leeds from Heathrow on the Sunday evening could not fly home until the next day. He was unaware that he could claim compensation, wrongly believing that because the airline had told him of the cancellation on the Saturday and were putting him on the Monday flight at no extra charge they had done their bit. He also assumed that bad weather would constitute an exceptional circumstance, meaning that the airline had no obligation to pay him compensation. However, since other flights were leaving Heathrow on the Sunday and this particular airline had merely chosen for operational reasons to cancel certain flights (on the grounds that take-off and landing were taking far longer than usual) the exceptional circumstance rule did not apply.
One instance where the exceptional circumstance rule does apply is in the case of political instability, such as in the Middle East. A few weeks ago various airlines from America, Canada and the UK cancelled flights to Tel Aviv after a rocket landed close to the airport.
One UK carrier who took the advice of the European Aviation Safety Agency was easyJet. It undertook to do all it could to look after its passengers who were trying to return home from the war-torn region, saying it would put them up in “suitable and secure hotel accommodation” and get them home as soon as possible.
It also went the extra mile by saying that any passengers who were due to travel in the next 14 days to Tel Aviv but were now disinclined to do so could change their dates.