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Six in 10 flight compensation claims mistakenly rejected

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Airlines are incorrectly rejecting 58% of valid flight delay and cancellation compensation claims, analysis has revealed.

Under EU law (EC261), passengers are entitled to up to €600 (around £530) if a flight is cancelled or delayed by more than three hours if the cause of the disruption was in the airline’s control. See’s Flight delay guide for more information.

But many UK and Irish airlines are wrongfully rejecting compensation claims, with Ryanair refusing the largest number.

Analysis of hundreds of thousands of claims by flight rights group AirHelp revealed that Ryanair rejected nearly 99% of valid compensation claims. This is 8% up on 2018 figures. Easyjet rejected 87% of valid claims followed by Virgin Atlantic with 74%.

British Airways also failed to compensate customers with 67% of valid claims being rejected, up from 42% recorded in 2018. This is despite a tumultuous year for the airline which has seen IT glitches and the threat of strike action.

Flybe had a 31% rejection claim rate. Turning to airlines outside of the UK and Ireland, Tunisair, Vueling and Ernest Airlines had a 99.9% rejection rate.

AirHelp said a common reason for airlines rejecting claims relate to staff strikes which they say isn’t in their control. However, following a ruling last year, airlines are accountable for the actions of their employees and they can’t cite this as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’.

Others list crew or pilot shortages or technical/operational issues as to why passengers aren’t eligible for compensation.

Airlines aren’t playing fair

Paloma Salmeron, air passenger rights expert at AirHelp which looked at data across 51 airlines, said: “Research shows airlines aren’t playing fair, so it’s little wonder two-in-three passengers give up after their initial claim was rejected.

“It is wildly unfair for airlines to reject compensation claims as a tactic to avoid giving passengers what is rightfully theirs. On average, airlines have rejected over 30% more claims this year, than in 2018. EC261 is in place to empower passengers and should not be used by airlines as smoke and mirrors allowing them to shirk their legal responsibility.”

Salmeron added that nearly 30 million passengers have been affected by flight disruption in the UK so far this year. However, around 85% of UK passengers are unaware of their rights.

She said: “If passengers believe their claim has been wrongfully rejected by an airline, our advice is not to give up. Passengers should keep hold off all travel documents as these are crucial if their claim needs to be escalated with legal assistance.”

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