Airlines must adhere to compensation criteria – Martina Anderson MEP

Sinn Féin MEP, Martina Anderson has called on Airlines to comply fully with the spirit and the letter of the criteria for compensating travelers who are inconvenienced by undue schedule delays.

Martina Anderson said:

“I have recently been made aware that some European airlines are refusing to pay customers delayed-flight compensation to which they are entitled. This flouting of consumer rights should not be tolerated and I have corresponded with the European Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas in this regard.

“In October 2012 the European Court of Justice ruled that if a flight arrives with a delay of 3 hours or more, the passengers are entitled to compensation. Only when the delay is caused by ‘exceptional circumstances’ such as strikes or natural disasters are the airlines exempted from paying the compensation.

‘Unfortunately however, airlines are frequently citing the ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause in cases which are anything but, in order to avoid paying out compensation to those inconvenienced passengers.

‘In 2008, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that technical problems, often cited by airlines as an ‘exceptional circumstance’ are not enough to exclude liability for compensation under the EU rules unless they ‘stem from events which by their nature and origin are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned.’

“Nevertheless, airlines in Europe have continued to circumvent the meaning of this clause to excuse themselves from paying compensation, citing technical or mechanical issues.

“I have been contacted by a constituent who endured a 27 hour flight delay from Heathrow to Belfast and was refused compensation. The airline cited ‘exceptional circumstances’ due to a technical problem with another plane which caused the delay.

“Mechanical problems should not be considered as exceptional; it is the airlines responsibility to ensure proper maintenance procedures are carried out to detect mechanical problems that may cause undue delay and it is disingenuous of them to exploit technical problems with another aircraft to justify extensive delays.

“I welcome the Commission’s announcement of new proposals earlier this year to tighten up these ‘grey areas’ in the Regulation. In the meantime, it is important that consumers remain vigilant against any deception by the airlines and pursue any compensation to which they feel entitled.

“If you feel aggrieved, I would advise anyone to contact the relevant Enforcement Body. In the North it is the Civil Aviation Authority and in the South, the Commission for Aviation Regulation. These bodies can provide assistance for consumers in bringing complaints against airlines by whom they feel mistreated.’