Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Poor compensation for 24-hour delay

  • @SimonCalder

Q. Our Delta flight from Bloomington, USA to Manchester was cancelled after waiting at the airport for seven hours, due to "technical reasons". We were rebooked and flew the next day, in effect 24 hours later. The only compensation KLM - which handles Delta customer services in UK - has offered is a £300 voucher (£100 per passenger) valid for 12 months.

It appears that as the flight was from a non EU airport, the carrier was a non EU carrier, and it was technical reasons for cancellation and not overbooking, the airline is under no obligation to compensate me. Is this correct? It seems scandalous that non EU airlines have this "get out of jail free" card, tough luck to the passenger. Do I have any other avenues to pursue this further?


A. The strict legal answer is: "possibly". If you can demonstrate clear financial loss as a result of the delay, you could in theory make a claim under the 1999 Montreal Convention, which governs air travel globally. However, were I in your position I would settle for the £100-per-person voucher and pursue a possible claim with travel insurance (which may offer a token £50 for the delay).

Your "get-out-of-jail-free card" analogy is correct. In the present EU261 rules that govern passengers' rights, and the proposed revision announced this week, there is no stipulation about the behaviour of non-EU airlines on flights starting outside Europe.

So what can you do in future to avoid problems? Make sure that you book on an EU carrier, which will then have a responsibility to you wherever you are in the world. But of course a location such as Bloomington is served only by US carriers … As always in air travel, all you can really do is hope for the best and build in some flexibility if you do get stuck.

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