Strikes, slowdowns and staff shortages are causing chaos with Europe’s air travel, but what are your rights when it comes to flight cancellations?
Under EU rules, if your flight is cancelled the airline must give you a refund or reschedule the flight, even if it means using a different carrier.
You are also entitled to extra compensation and accommodation expenses, if necessary.
“If you have a storm or if you have a strike from the airport staff, for instance, which is an extraordinary circumstance, you don’t have the right to compensation,” Steven Berger, a legal officer at The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), told Euronews.
“In other situations, you have the right to compensation. The amount of this compensation varies on the distance of your flights.”
This can range from €250 to €600.
According to BEUC, airlines often leave passengers in the dark, failing to make the rules clear. It wants more regulations to include automatic compensation if things go wrong.
“There should be a deterrent effect on the airlines to avoid the replication of the different unfair practices or the fact that consumers have to wait for a month to be reimbursed. Where in the regulation it’s seven days,” Berger said.
“We need really to make sure that the rights are respected in terms of timeline for reimbursement. It should be in cash and not in vouchers. This should always be a decision of the consumers to be reimbursed in vouchers or not.”
Belgian Daniel Rothier is one of the many victims of the recent spate of cancellations.
His trip to Verona earlier this month became a nightmare when his inbound flight was cancelled with no explanation.
“On June 7th we learnt, by email, that the flight on June 8th was cancelled,” Rottier told Euronews. “The only solution proposed was to try to get a seat on the plane leaving on June 10th, two days later.
“We asked our Airbnb host if we could stay longer. After some trouble we managed to stay longer, although not at the same price…It was a Ryanair flight. They didn’t give us any explanation. We tried to contact them by mail, telephone, but with no answer.”
He is now claiming compensation for the extra costs incurred.
Ryanair disputes this claim, however.
It told Euronews in a statement that: “Ryanair is operating its full flight schedules this summer, with no disruptions due to staffing shortages, unlike many other airlines who have failed to plan adequately for the return of travel post COVID. Air Traffic Controller (ATC) strikes and airport staff shortages may cause minor disruption throughout the summer season.
“Any claims that Ryanair’s compensation claim systems are unfair and complicated are completely false. All passengers who encounter disruption are informed of all their options and entitlements through email/SMS and all information is readily available on Ryanair.com.”
In some cases, as in Brussels last week, flights were cancelled due to airport staff striking. In this case it is not the fault of the airline, raising even more questions about compensation.
Dublin airport has taken the matter into its own hands, announcing that it will refund passengers who have been affected by flight cancellations.
So far though, the Irish airport is an outlier, with many consumers still left out of pocket.
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