Bad weather – when are you entitled to compensation for a delayed flight?
Fall is here and winter is right around the corner, a time of year that goes hand in hand with inclement weather. And since weather is the most common reason that claims for compensation due to delayed or cancelled flight are rejected by the airline, we give you a better idea in this article of your options for compensation and tell you what the deal really is with the weather...
Let’s start with the basic question. Does the impact of inclement weather on a flight count as extenuating circumstances, or is the airline just hiding behind an excuse? The answer goes like this: YES and NO… So does an airline have to pay compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight due to inclement weather? The answer goes like this: THEY DO and THEY DON’T... Doesn't help too much, does it?
Nothing is ever black and white, and this situation is no different. The reason is that it's not a question of whether inclement weather IS or ISN’T an extenuating circumstance. The right question is: WHEN or HOW LONG the inclement weather impacted the flight! It might help to consider the following two specific examples:
Mr. Marek had a flight delayed by 3 hours from London to Prague. In the end they told Mr. Marek that lightning struck the airplane, and that's why the delay occurred. In other words, this constituted extenuating circumstances, and the passengers are not entitled to compensation. Surprisingly, however, Mr. Marek had sunny weather at the airport in London, with no evidence whatsoever of any storm. As they teach us in school, where there’s no storm, you’d be hard-pressed to find lightning. Does that mean the airline is taking the passenger for a fool and making pathetic excuses?
In the example above, this was not the case. After a more detailed analysis of the circumstances of the flight it turned out that the plane which was supposed to pick Mr. Marek up in London actually was hit by a bolt of lightning and had to be examined and repaired by a technician in London for safety reasons. The entire procedure ultimately resulted in the three-hour delay experienced by Mr. Marek. Because this constituted circumstances the airline could not have prevented, the requirements for compensation due to delayed flight were not met.
Mr. Petr also experienced a delay on a flight from Madrid due to inclement weather. His subsequent claim for compensation was later rejected based on high gusty winds that impacted all aircraft in Madrid. Mr. Petr confirmed that this was the case, as well as the information that multiple aircraft were delayed for this reason, which he could see for himself on the departures board. And yet he tried his luck anyway, and submitted his flight for compensation due to delay. And how did it turn out?
The airline ultimately recognized Mr. Petr's claim for compensation and paid him the entire EUR 400 – in other words, over CZK 10,000. The reason is that after thorough investigation of the flight and the conditions at the airport in Madrid, it came out that there were indeed poor wind conditions that affected most of the flights at the airport. And yet it also turned out that these gusty winds lasted for a period of approx. 30 minutes and left all the aircraft with a delays in minutes, not hours. Another, critical factor is that the specific flight taken by Mr. Petr was in fact affected by a technical defect that had to be remedied. In this case, therefore, the airline had been hiding the actual reason for the delay behind the unfavourable weather conditions in an effort to dodge their obligation to grant Mr. Petr compensation for his delayed flight.
So how can you find out what to do for successful compensation, and above all for an objective assessment of the situation? Here's our advice:
- Find out as much information as you can while you’re still at the airport at the moment your flight becomes delayed. You can usually get the most important details on site! When you have to wait in the airport anyway, go to the airline representative and get them to write down at the very least a confirmation of the duration of the delay, ideally along with the cause of the delay.
- Take a photo of the departures table showing whether the problem is affecting only one airline or multiple airlines, or how long on average the aircraft are delayed.
- When lodging a claim for compensation, don’t be dissuaded by the first time your claim is denied, especially if no grounds for denial are given.
- If you don't succeed on your own, let us advise you free of charge and obligation. In the worst-case scenario you will simply receive confirmation that the airline doesn't have to pay. In better cases you’ll get your money. Simply stated, with us you have nothing to lose…