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Are You Entitled to Double Compensation Under EC 261/2004?

Are You Entitled to Double Compensation Under EC 261/2004?
Taylor Rains

If you have ever had a flight interruption when flying within the EU or when traveling to the EU on a European-based carrier, then you are hopefully aware of EC Regulation 261/2004. The regulation protects passengers from flight cancellations and delays that were caused by circumstances under the airline’s control. The law is very comprehensive, but a recent post in the FlyerTalk forum highlighted an important piece of EC 261/2004 that many travelers may be unaware of – the ability to file for double compensation.

The Case

On Thursday, a discussion started in the forums about a case against Finnair. The case involved a passenger whose flight from Helsinki to Singapore was canceled and rebooked on a flight via Chongqing, China. However, the re-routed plane was delayed and got the passenger into Singapore seven hours late.

The case was brought to the courts because the passenger filed two claims against Finnair – the first for the canceled flight, and the second for the seven-hour delay for the rebooked flight. Finnair agreed to compensate the passenger for the canceled flight per EC 261/2004, but refused to pay for the re-routed flight because it was delayed due to an “extraordinary circumstance.” This case focused on two things:

  • Article 5(3): Was the re-routed flight an “extraordinary circumstance?”
  • Article 7(1): Can passengers claim compensation for two different flights within the same reservation if the first is canceled and the re-routed flight is also canceled or is delayed by more than three hours?

As far as the “extraordinary circumstance,” the court ruled the delay of the re-routed flight was at the fault of the airline, so then they had to determine if the passenger was entitled to both claims.

Court Rules in Favor of the Passenger

The obligation of airlines in this particular scenario is not outlined in EC 261/2004, so it was up to the court to interpret the regulation. In this case, the court ruled that Finnair was to pay the passenger for both flights because the law does not limit the rights of passengers who find themselves in this situation. The court’s exact ruling was:

“Regulation No 261/2004, and in particular Article 7(1) thereof, must be interpreted as meaning that an air passenger, who has received compensation for the cancellation of a flight and has accepted the re-routing flight offered to him, is entitled to compensation for the delay of the re-routing flight where that delay is such as to give rise to entitlement to compensation and the air carrier of the re-routing flight is the same as that of the canceled flight.”

Common Court Ruling

After reviewing this case, I dug into the FlyerTalk forums and other sources to see if this was a standard ruling. Based on my research, it appears passengers do, in fact, have the right to file for double compensation in cases such as the one outlined above. If a flight is canceled, and the subsequent re-routed flight is also canceled or gets you to your final destination at least three hours later than scheduled, then the airline is obligated to pay out for both flights. However, it appears that many cases go to court because airlines try to claim that they are only responsible for the first flight interruption because the re-routed flight is just an extended “delay” to the first.

Two cases in Germany ruled in the same way as Finland, stating the re-routed flight is still a flight, and each will be examined separately. The German court also noted that the point of the regulation is to balance the inconveniences caused by flight interruptions, so it applies to both flights regardless of the fact they are on the same reservation.

Some Say Passengers Only Get One Claim

Although the courts seem to be in agreeance, some FlyerTalk users have different opinions about the interpretation of EC 261/2004. One user brought up a similar scenario in the forums:

“I recently traveled from Athens to Birminham on SAS with a connection through Copenhagen.

Day 1. ATH-CPH flight cancelled due to mechanical reasons. Then rebooked on same flight the following day.

Day 2. ATH-CPH flight delayed by six hours due to mechanical reasons again (vehicle scraped aircraft, had to be repaired) I arrived at BHX 48 hours late

I was advised to file two seperate claims under EC 261/2004.

I filed a claim for compensation for the delayed flight on day 2. SAS have accepted the claim and paid up. 400 Euros. I have now filed a separate claim for the canceled flight on day 1. SAS are refusing the claim on the grounds that it’s a “duplicate claim” and has already been resolved.”

One person responded, “The OP held a ticket ATH–BHX via CPH and was delayed in arriving at the final destination (BHX) by more than three hours; hence the 400 EUR payout which has already been made by SAS. Given that the EU regulated compensation scheme focuses on the entire journey (in this case from ATH to BHX), it should not matter how many times you get delayed on the way. Similarly, if the OP was delayed by more than three hours into CPH and still made it into BHX less than three hours late, there would be no compensation at all as the CPH portion is just an intermediate. The entire journey counts, and only counts once.” Based on this response, the regulation could be read as though it only applies to the time of the arrival to the final destination.

Obviously, there are many ways to interpret EC 261/2004, and the airlines will go to bat with passengers who try to file for double compensation. However, if you are adamant about getting double money for the scenarios outlined above, then it may be worth escalating to the court as they seem to rule in favor of the passenger.

 

Have you ever filed for double compensation, and has it worked out in your favor? Do you agree with the court’s rulings? Let us know in the comments!

View Comments (3)

3 Comments

  1. mvoight

    March 16, 2020 at 12:00 am

    I had been curious about how this worked on a single ticket after I had it happened on 2 carriers the same day, back in May 28, 2017. when BA’s computer system had big problems. I was flying DME-LHR-LAS on BA. BA canceled the Moscow to London flight that day. Normally, I would have contacted BA to get alternate flights, but they were unreachable. So, I then bought a Finnair ticket to fly SVO-HEL-ORD-LAS. The flight to Chicago was late and I missed the AA connection to Las Vegas. I got compensation from both carriers but was curious what would have happened if BA has switched my original ticket to Finnair

  2. canadian99

    March 21, 2020 at 5:42 am

    Not sure claims against airlines is an appropriate topic at this time? Many of them will be gone after this so it won’t matter! Someone is worried about a few hundred pounds when thousands have lost their jobs and incomes.

  3. redrob

    March 25, 2020 at 9:34 am

    What a shame that society has turned into such a culture of greed, always looking for an angle to blame someone and make money out of it. Many years ago, we Brits would sneer at the “ambulance chaser” mentality prevalent in the US, but unfortunately (and inevitably), we have followed down the same path…
    Sh*t happens, but life goes on. Current events make that more applicable than ever.

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