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Travel News

Most common excuses used by airlines to avoid compensation payouts

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Written by Nell Alcantara

Air passengers have experienced time and again the difficulties of claiming for compensation after suffering a long delay or missed connection.

Air passengers have experienced time and again the difficulties of claiming for compensation after suffering a long delay or missed connection. EU law states that passengers reaching their destination at least 3 hours after schedule can be eligible for up to €600, barring extraordinary circumstances. The burden of proof rests with the airlines, but they are often allowed to reject legitimate claims by citing “extraordinary circumstances” and by the lack of insistence by the customer.

Backed by a Europe-wide network of experts in passenger rights, however, refund.me offers a bureaucracy-free solution to claiming. Based on claims from 98 countries and 201 airlines, here are the top reasons refund.me has received from airlines for rejecting claims.

1. Severe Weather Conditions – This is the most common reason for rejection and, although it can be a legitimate excuse in some cases, the interpretation of “severe” is often too loosely applied. Refund.me uses historical weather reports to contest this when necessary.

2. Technical Issues – Although often cited by airlines as “extraordinary,” technical problems are generally not accepted by European Courts as a valid reason not to compensate passengers. The good upkeep of the aircraft is considered a part of the carrier’s contractual obligations.

3. Bird Strikes – Bird strikes can be a legitimate extraordinary circumstance, but it remains the airline’s responsibility to prove it. Many passengers, however, are unaware of this and accept this excuse even when presented without proof.

4. Staff strikes – Unlike bird strikes, crew or air traffic controller strikes are easily demonstrable and often out of the airline’s control. This remains a grey area but is generally accepted as an “extraordinary circumstance” which exonerates the airline from compensating passengers.

5. No Crew Available – The crew’s availability is a central part of the contract of carriage and is in most cases not considered an “extraordinary circumstance.” It is the airline’s responsibility to ensure the crew is well rested or to provide a replacement crew in timely fashion.

Added Eve Buechner, Founder and CEO of refund.me: “Passenger rights exist to ensure passengers get treated fairly and airlines hold up their end of the contract. Extraordinary circumstances do occur sometimes, but we have to be vigilant to make sure this is not abused as an excuse to avoid paying passengers what they are rightly due.”

In just over a year of operation, refund.me has registered a 93.71% success rate of claims processed. Between claims rejected for these reasons and passengers not knowing their right, refund.me estimates that in 2012, over 400 million euros were left unclaimed by approximately 1.7 million passengers.