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Five airlines told to cough up flight delay compensation

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
A handful of airlines face enforcement action by the aviation regulator for denying passengers the compensation they’re legally entitled to for delayed flights.

American Airlines, Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines have been told to pay compensation to passengers after a review of their policies was found to be in breach of consumer law.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) revealed the airlines do not pay compensation to passengers who have experienced a delay on the first leg of a flight that caused them to miss a connecting flight and, as a result, to arrive at their final destination over three hours late.

Singapore Airlines currently places compensation claims for these delays on hold, but the regulator said all the airlines’ refusal to pay compensation in these instances “fails to meet the legal passenger rights requirements for flight disruption”.

The CAA’s own data shows that Emirates was the most complained about airline for failing to pay compensation for connecting flights. While Turkish Airlines has directed passengers to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service, none of the other airlines facing enforcement action have joined ADR schemes and the CAA is calling on them to give passengers access to these complaint services as soon as possible.

What are the flight delay rules?

Under European rules, passengers are legally entitled to compensation if they arrive at the final destination of their journey more than three hours late – including if booked on a connecting flight – unless the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances.

These rights apply to any flight departing an EU airport, regardless of the nationality of the airline. The CAA estimates over 200,000 passengers each year travelling on these airlines could be at risk of missing their onward connection and being delayed by over three hours at their final destination.

See’s Flight delay? You can claim up to £460 from the airline for more information on getting compensation.

‘Clear laws in place so passengers are looked after by airlines’

Richard Moriarty, director of consumers and markets at the CAA, said: “Any disruption to a flight is frustrating for passengers, but delays that cause people to miss connecting flights have a particularly damaging effect on people’s travel plans. That’s why there are clear laws in place to make sure passengers that experience this type of disruption are looked after by their airline and compensated when the disruption was in the airline’s control.

“Airlines’ first responsibility should be looking after their passengers, not finding ways in which they can prevent passengers upholding their rights. So it’s disappointing to see a small number of airlines continuing to let a number of their passengers down by refusing to pay them the compensation they are entitled to.”

Moriarty said that where the CAA sees evidence of passengers systematically being denied their rights, it will not hesitate to take the necessary action to ensure airlines change their policies and their customers get the assistance they are entitled to.

Separately, Vueling also faces CAA action for its “approach to providing passengers care and assistance during disruption” as it found the airline failed to comply with the minimum standards set, including a “lack of clear oversight to check passengers are being looked after within the requirements of the law”, it said.

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