Take stress out of air travel by knowing your rights before you fly
Air travel can be stressful, even when things go to plan. Add delays or lost baggage to the equation and stress levels can go sky high. You can then find yourself questioning what your legal entitlements are while still trying to get to that business meeting which you are now late for, or on to the hard-earned holiday you've been waiting for.
An international treaty, the Montreal Convention (1999), sought to bring uniformity and consistency to compensation claims arising out of international air travel and provides for compensation in Special Drawing Rights (a form of international money created by the IMF which is a weighted average of various currencies) which can then be converted to the relevant currency. EU regulations incorporated the Montreal Convention in 2002 and this applies to all EU flights from an EU airport regardless of the airline or destination, as well as flights where an EU-based airline lands at an airport within the EU.
A delay of two hours or more entitles a passenger to food and drink, overnight accommodation (if applicable) and access to a telephone and emails. Airlines will often have vouchers to cover these, but in the event they do not, 'reasonable expenses' can be reclaimed from the airline, but remember to keep all receipts.
If the delay is more than three hours and the airline is responsible for that delay, then monetary compensation (between €250 and €600) can follow dependent on the area and distance of travel.
If you are in the airport more than five hours then you have entitlement to a full refund of all flights that won't be used on the same booking - regardless of who is responsible for the delay. If you do get on the flight, you can still claim compensation up to a limit of €600 so long as the delay was not the result of a strike or due to weather.
In the first instance, try to claim from the airline directly. If you are not satisfied, you can report the matter to the Civil Aviation Authority.
If your baggage is delayed or lost, then you should raise the issue before leaving the airport and complete a Property Irregularity Report with your airline. You can claim for essential items but this is dependent upon the presentation of receipts within 21 days of receiving your bags. Baggage can be declared lost if delayed for 21 days.
If you miss a connecting part of your trip, which is not part of the same booking, it is unlikely that you will be able to claim for consequential loss. Examples would include the cost of a separately booked flight, cruise, form of transport etc. As such you should always consider the additional peace of mind which is afforded by ATOL protected packages if going on holiday, or check the terms of your travel insurance and the liability limits in place if travelling on a non-EU airline.
There is also provision for compensation if your flight is cancelled. You have the right to an alternative flight or a full refund of the cost of the flight. Provided the flight falls within the meaning of an EU flight (see above), you may also be able to seek compensation depending on the duration of the flight and how far in advance it was cancelled.
In both instances it is possible to claim compensation for applicable flights dating back six years.
If you are unlucky enough to have experienced airline delays, Worthingtons Solicitors have considerable experience in pursuing compensation in such circumstances, and will gladly provide expert legal advice so that cases are dealt with as quickly as possible. If you or a member of your family have been affected, please contact Worthingtons for free initial advice.
Claire McDaid is an associate in the litigation department at Worthingtons Solicitors . For advice, visit www.worthingtonslaw.co.uk or contact Claire on 028 9043 4015 or 028 9181 1538