Favoring passengers, re-defining flight arrival time is a part of the new rules that the European Court of Justice has implemented. The rule says that the actual arrival time of an aircraft at its destination is defined by when at least one aircraft door is opened. This ruling has particular significance for passengers who seek compensation for a flight delayed by three hours or more, especially in cases in which the aircraft lands close to the three-hour threshold.
If you’re flying between U.S. and Europe, then the new ruling can boost your chances of collecting compensation of up to $800. Although the EU’s compensation rules only apply when the delay is fault of the airline, delays due to storms or labor actions don’t count.
Taking the side of the passenger, the court noted that as far as passengers are concerned, they are confined in the aircraft for the entirety of the flight and the flight delays should be calculated based on the time at which one of the doors of the aircraft is opened, at which time passengers can leave the aircraft and resume their activities. The time the aircraft lands on the runway or reaches its parking position is therefore irrelevant when calculating a flight’s arrival time.
For example, about 2.6 million passengers fly from London to New York every year, of which approximately 21 thousand passengers would be directly affected by the regulation. Collectively, they would be eligible for compensation of around $17 million.
So what do you need to do in case of flight delays? Here are some steps:
- If the delay occurs at the departing airport, ask a gate agent if the delay is because of weather or perhaps a technical issue, or something else. Note the reason the airline provides, and when it was given. Document any other pertinent information provided by airport or airline staff.
- Record the time that you boarded the aircraft, when the aircraft pushed back from the gate, and when it took off.
- During the flight, ask a member of the flight or cabin crew if they know the cause of the delay. Document any information provided, who provided it, and the time.
- Upon arrival at the destination airport, note when the aircraft landed, when it came to a standstill, and when it docked at the gate or parking area.
- Document the exact time that the first door was opened.
How does U.S. and Canadian citizens/residents benefit from European flight delay compensation laws?
The European Air Passenger Rights Regulation 261/2004 and subsequent decisions of the European Court established minimum rights for passengers when they are denied boarding against their will or if their flight is cancelled or delayed by three hours or more. The law provides for U.S. and Canadian citizens and residents and entitles them to up to $800 in compensation from the carrier when they are delayed on routes between North America and Europe.
Technical problems with an aircraft, bad weather, and delays associated with crew staffing problems are the most common reasons why passengers claim compensation. An most of them might be valid reasons to pursue a claim. If the flight delay, overbooking or flight cancellation additionally meets the following criteria, passengers should claim compensation.
Which flights qualify for the EU regulation?
The flight must be operated by an EU-regulated airline, which means the passenger is either departing from any airport within the EU on any airline (including US airlines), or is flying into Europe with an EU-based airline. In addition, both the distance of the flight and the duration of the delay affect the amount of compensation passengers may be able to claim. This can range from 125 – 600 euros ($160 – $800) per person.