Airline Complaints: Rights, Regulations and Compensation

Find out everything you need to know about airline complaints and compensation. Know the regulations, your rights and helpful tips that will guide you through any airline complaints you need to make. Read our useful guide for all you need to know.

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What is an airline complaint?
Airline complaints are formal complaints made by an air passenger to the airline they travelled or tried to fly with. These complaints may be because of any problems that were not dealt with properly during the air travel experience. Filing an airline complaint can lead to passengers getting compensation for their troubles.

Who can help with my airline complaints?
Within the United Kingdom, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) helps air passengers with any complaints they have against their airline. The CAA will usually improve when passengers have already complained to their airline, and the airline did not deal with the complaint properly.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is also another way customers can complain. This is available for people who travel inside and outside of the UK.

You can find out if your airline is signed up to an ADR scheme by visiting the CAA’s website.

How can an ADR scheme help my airline complaint?
ADR schemes are the steps that allow you to solve a disagreement you are having with your airline without going to court. Sometimes these are called ombudsman services.

What if my airline doesn’t have an ADR?
You will need to go to the CAA if your airline is not associated with an ADR. Though the CAA does not have the power to enforce their rulings, they do have influence. They can advise your airline to pay you compensation, and in most cases, your airline will do it.

Before you make a complaint make sure you know your rights and check if you are entitled to receive a payment from the airline. Make sure you present your case successfully and provide as much information as you can. Your airline will then use the information to decide if your argument is valid. Keep a record of everything you send and any communication you have just in case anything goes wrong with your claim.

What causes airline complaints?
Unfortunately, travelling by air is not always a smooth experience. Some air passengers experience flight delays, flight cancellations and many other problems. After suffering some of these mishaps, air passengers may be able to get recompense. This depends on the nature of their complaint. Knowing the regulations and your rights will allow you to see if you have a strong claim and are likely to receive compensation.

What are the regulations?
The most critical regulation to know is regulation 261/2004. This is the EU regulation that deals with flight delay compensation. It was first introduced in February 2005 and was binding law for all of the EU member states. Since this introduction, there have been many court cases and rulings that have allowed the rules to be more explicit. It lets consumers know exactly what the regulation covers and when they can use it for their legal protection.

Why is regulation needed?
The reason EU regulation 261/2004 exists it to protect, enforce and improve the rights of air passengers who have suffered because of their airline. It is for customers who have experienced flight delays, cancellations or have been downgraded or denied boarding for their flight. It also helps to compensate people for the troubles caused, such as loss of time or inconveniences because of their airline.

When do the regulations apply?
The law is an EU law, meaning that it applies to all countries that are part of the European Union. There is no option for countries to opt out of this if they are part of the EU. But if the country is not a part of the EU, they can opt into the rule to benefit air passengers that travel through.

Am I covered by EU flight delay regulations?
Yes! All flight delay regulations apply to anyone who has a flight that takes off from an airport based in an EU country. It also applies to anyone whose flight arrives at an EU country or is operated by an EU airline. This is regardless of the age or nationality of the air passenger.
You can be assured that any flights departing from the UK, or arriving in the UK on an EU airline will always be covered. So even, American, Middle Eastern, or Asian airlines must abide by EU compensation rules when they depart from an EU airport.

What airline compensation rights do I have?
Because of these EU regulations, you have access to many rights. The exact rights will depend on different things such as what happened to your initial flight, the length of your delay and the distance of your flight. Usually, air passenger rights will fall into three main categories.

As an air passenger, you have the right to:

  • Reimbursement or re-routing for your flight.
  • Proper care assistance. This includes food and drink, accommodation if necessary, transport between accommodation and ways to communicate.
  • Monetary compensation if you are eligible for it.

If you are to board any European flight that is cancelled, you are entitled to get a full refund or have an alternative flight to your destination. All refund payments should be made within seven days. If you had less than fourteen days’ notice before the cancellation, then you may be allowed to claim compensation as well.

In a recent court case between an air passenger and their airline, the court ruled that it was the airline’s responsibility to contact the passenger directly and tell them that their flight has been cancelled instead of only contacting the travel agent.

This now means that all airlines are responsible for directly contacting passengers. The airline must also prove that they made contact with the passenger at least fourteen days before the flight. If not, the airline is responsible for paying compensation.

Extraordinary circumstances with still apply, and if the cancellation was because of these, then the airline does not have to pay compensation. They should still give you a refund or a different flight in this case.

The amount of compensation you can claim would vary depending on if your flight was delayed or cancelled. It will also take into account how long it was delayed for and how far you were flying.

Should I use a claims management company?
It is not compulsory to use a claims management company to deal with your airline complaint but filing a flight delay, and cancellation compensation claim is a process that many air passengers seek assistance with due to the nature of the claim and the process involved. If you want a professional claims management company to help you with your claim and deal with the airline, we will charge you a percentage of the compensation you will get. We work on a no win no fee basis meaning if your claim is not successful then we will not charge you a fee.

Can I claim on behalf of another air passenger?
You can claim on behalf of friends or family members that were on the same flight as you. This is provided that they permit you to do it. It is important to note that airlines will usually pay compensation to the name on the flight ticket. You will need to prove in writing that they have permitted you to claim compensation on their behalf. You should also state who you would like the compensation paid to.

Help to prepare and manage your airline complaint
If you need help to start and manage your claim, these steps will provide help. Air passengers should try to complain directly to the airline or airport involved in their case.

Information on how and when to take your complaint higher

Making a complaint against your airline: step by step
1. Use your airline’s complaints procedure
Most airlines will already have a process for dealing with complaints and claims. In the first instance, it is best to use it. You may need to send a letter or fill in a claims and complaints form. Start by checking the airline’s website for details on what to do.
If the airline does not have any procedure available, it would be quickest to email them and get a response.

2. Set out your case properly
When you get in contact, make sure to present your case clearly and shortly. Explain to them everything that happened, what problems it caused you, and why you believe you are deserving of compensation. Be clear about what compensation you want to receive and any expenses that you are claiming. Know what you are entitled to and send the claim to the airline’s customer relations department.

3. Include all relevant information

It will help if you give the airline as much information the first time around. Try to include:

  • Your full contact details – including address, phone number and email
  • Full names and details of all passengers
  • Booking references, confirmations and travel dates
  • Your flight number, departure and destination airports
  • Copies of all tickets and booking information
  • Details of what and where the disruption occurred
  • Information on how long the delays were
  • Names of any airline staff you spoke to
  • Any receipts if you are claiming expenses

What if my airline rejects my complaint?
If you made a complaint to your airline about a delayed flight but it was rejected, or you did not get the outcome you deserved, you can take your complaint to a higher authority. The next step would be to take the complaint to an ADR scheme or the CAA which will help you to deal with your case further.

Understanding all of your rights and the steps you need to take will allow your airline complaint to be more successful.

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