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Aer Lingus - Claiming EC 261 2004 - international litigation, small claims

Aer Lingus - Claiming EC 261 2004 - international litigation, small claims

Old Jul 22, 17, 8:13 pm
  #1  
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Smile Aer Lingus - Claiming EC 261 2004 - international litigation, small claims

Hello FlyerTalk!

First timer here. I need some advice regarding the situation that 2 of my friends and I are in. Quick breakdown of circumstances as follows:

3 passengers involved. Our flight tickets were cancelled while we were making our way to the gate.
1) Arrived at Brussels Airport over 3.5 hours prior to departure. Upon arrival to the check-in desk we were told that check-ins would not start until 2 hours prior to departure.
2) Returned 2.25 hours prior to departure, with a line backed up and minimal staff. The wait was 45+ minutes but we are issued our boarding passes.
3) Security takes 30 minutes and (edit)passport control line takes nearly an hour. By the time we clear that line it is already well past departure time.

Our return trip was delayed by one full day, mostly spent at the Brussels Airport. We were forced to book new tickets at cost as well as hotel and food for the night. We are based in the US (California), the airline is Headquartered in Ireland, and the airport was in Belgium.

We have opened a case with them directly and have been going back and forth. Originally they were obstinate in refusing to reimbursing any amount to us but recently I have received an email in which they would be willing to reimburse the price of one ticket "as a gesture of goodwill", minus a "missed departure fee". Needless to say, we are looking to decline that offer and pursue what we believe is the amount necessary to be made whole.

I learned of EU regulation EC 261 2004 recently and wanted to know if it is possible to be compensated appropriately according to it? And how would I go about it, file small claims in another country? Would I be able to have this done online or would we have to show up in person? Or is it possible to file a claim in US small claims under European law? I'm new to this and any advice would be appreciated!

Thank you!

Last edited by vvaldellon; Jul 24, 17 at 9:32 am
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Old Jul 23, 17, 6:50 am
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Originally Posted by vvaldellon View Post
Hello FlyerTalk!

First timer here. I need some advice regarding the situation that 2 of my friends and I are in. Quick breakdown of circumstances as follows:

3 passengers involved. Our flight tickets were cancelled while we were making our way to the gate.
1) Arrived at Brussels Airport over 3.5 hours prior to departure. Upon arrival to the check-in desk we were told that check-ins would not start until 2 hours prior to departure.
2) Returned 2.25 hours prior to departure, with a line backed up and minimal staff. The wait was 45+ minutes but we are issued our boarding passes.
3) Security takes 30 minutes and Customs takes nearly an hour. By the time we clear customs it is already well past departure time.

Our return trip was delayed by one full day, mostly spent at the Brussels Airport. We were forced to book new tickets at cost as well as hotel and food for the night. We are based in the US (California), the airline is Headquartered in Ireland, and the airport was in Belgium.

We have opened a case with them directly and have been going back and forth. Originally they were obstinate in refusing to reimbursing any amount to us but recently I have received an email in which they would be willing to reimburse the price of one ticket "as a gesture of goodwill", minus a "missed departure fee". Needless to say, we are looking to decline that offer and pursue what we believe is the amount necessary to be made whole.

I learned of EU regulation EC 261 2004 recently and wanted to know if it is possible to be compensated appropriately according to it? And how would I go about it, file small claims in another country? Would I be able to have this done online or would we have to show up in person? Or is it possible to file a claim in US small claims under European law? I'm new to this and any advice would be appreciated!

Thank you!
I have read and re-read your post. I find it completely incomprehensible.
What was your itinerary? Brussels-Dublin-Brussels on Aer Lingus?
Did you have a separate ticket to and from the US? Did that have an impact on a transfer in Brussels or were you traveling US-Brussels-Ireland on a single ticket?
How do you spent "nearly an hour in customs" leaving Brussels? That just makes no sense.
EC261 2004 applies to flight delays, cancellations and denied boarding.
You file a claim directly with the airline.
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Old Jul 23, 17, 10:33 am
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Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
I have read and re-read your post. I find it completely incomprehensible.
What was your itinerary? Brussels-Dublin-Brussels on Aer Lingus?
Brussels -> Dublin -> LAX
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
Did you have a separate ticket to and from the US? Did that have an impact on a transfer in Brussels or were you traveling US-Brussels-Ireland on a single ticket?
The trip was one-way to the US with a single stop in Dublin; thus two boarding passes: one from Brussels to Dublin which was the flight that was missed, and one from Dublin to LAX which naturally could not be taken.
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
How do you spent "nearly an hour in customs" leaving Brussels? That just makes no sense.
The line was extremely long. Think of a line at an amusement park, except with people cutting in line every few minutes. With security not doing anything. They had 4 out of 6 stations open and processing people if I recall correctly, and only after about 25 minutes did they open the 5th (which was followed by cheers from everyone in line).
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
EC261 2004 applies to flight delays, cancellations and denied boarding.
You file a claim directly with the airline.
We have filed a claim directly with them. They have been very vague with their responses and have not addressed EC261 2004 specifically in their emails.

Last edited by vvaldellon; Jul 23, 17 at 11:02 am
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Old Jul 23, 17, 12:02 pm
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Ok. Things seem a little clearer now. Sounds like it was a bit of a mess at the airport that day.
But I still have lots of questions.
You arrived at check-in 2+ hours before departure.
There was a line. You waited 45 mins. Did you not try one of the mobile check-in machines? Were you checking baggage?
Given that you were now approx 90 mins from departure, did you ask at the check-in if you could have expedited or priority security access given that the lines seemed long?
Once you had your BPs (boarding passes), it took you another 90 mins to go through security?
Did you speak up at any point and ask to be moved to the front of the line given that your flight was closing? If you didn't, then that's on you.
When you reached the gate (and it sounds like the flight had closed?) who did you talk to? Did the agent re-book your ticket?
You said you bought a new ticket. Who told you to do that? Did you call Aer Lingus on the phone? Or did you go back to the Aer Lingus ticket desk in Departures?
Basically, this sounds like a Brussels Airport issue ... and doesn't qualify under EC261 for a claim against the airline.
Though, Aer Lingus might be a bit more sensitive to your inconvenience.
Also, did you have travel insurance? This is a situation where travel insurance would come in very handy.
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Old Jul 23, 17, 12:47 pm
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This doesn't make sense and as a result I can see why you are having issues

2:25 before departure you start queuing for check in, (check in opens 2:30 before)
45 minutes later issued with boarding cards so 1:40 before scheduled departure (no issue)
30 minutes to clear security, 1:10 before departure (no issue)
How long to get through passport control, its just after security

5 minutes to reach the gate, 1:05 to departure

So what happened here? There are no customs on departure in Brussels, no matter where you are going there are no customs

I can only see four things
1. You had to visit the customs office to declare something for legal/export/import reasons
2. You got pulled by customs for an ad hoc inspection, very rare and likely to be as a result of intelligence or something flagged at security
3. You decided to queue for a VAT refund
4. You are confusing the passport control check with customs, all departing passengers leaving the Schengen countries must go through passport control and you got pulled aside for extra checks

For all four the Airline is not liable under EC261

If it was just the queue was very slow, then you have a grievance as you arrived in good time, had been issued with a boarding card and proceeded directly through to the gate

Last edited by ROKNA; Jul 23, 17 at 1:04 pm
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Old Jul 23, 17, 2:43 pm
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First I would like to say, thanks for the replies.
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
Ok. Things seem a little clearer now. Sounds like it was a bit of a mess at the airport that day.
But I still have lots of questions.
You arrived at check-in 2+ hours before departure.
There was a line. You waited 45 mins. Did you not try one of the mobile check-in machines? Were you checking baggage?
If there were mobile check-in machines, we weren't aware of them as there weren't any in the vicinity. We were checking baggage.
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
Given that you were now approx 90 mins from departure, did you ask at the check-in if you could have expedited or priority security access given that the lines seemed long?
We did not. 1)We were not expecting the subsequent lines to be that long, and 2)We do not fly frequently, let alone out of the country often and are not aware of options such as asking for priority security access.
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
Once you had your BPs (boarding passes), it took you another 90 mins to go through security?
Did you speak up at any point and ask to be moved to the front of the line given that your flight was closing? If you didn't, then that's on you.
Yes, about 30 minutes to go through security, followed by another 45-50 minutes to go through (EDIT) passport control. During that line, it was apparent that if we were to wait the entire line, we would not make it to the gate in time. We asked if we could be moved toward the front as our departure time was coming up very shortly, and were told that its the same for everyone else.
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
When you reached the gate (and it sounds like the flight had closed?) who did you talk to? Did the agent re-book your ticket?
We talked to the people at table of the gate in question who checks your ticket. They told us to go pick up our checked bags at the baggage claim and go to customer service. This was followed by a day-long run-around, explained below.
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
You said you bought a new ticket. Who told you to do that? Did you call Aer Lingus on the phone? Or did you go back to the Aer Lingus ticket desk in Departures?
We initially booked through Expedia. When we received our bags, we were told to go to the Avia Partners desk who was working with Aer Lingus. They had us call both Expedia and Aer Lingus. The Expedia rep spoke with Aer Lingus and from what we can tell the latter were unwilling to work / accomodate us whatsoever. We then had the rep speak with the people at the Avia Partners desk and from overhearing their conversation it sounded like a lot of back-and forth finger pointing. We were on the phone on hold for hours. Finally, wanting to just return home we were told to book our flights at cost and an Aer Lingus representative will call us back after reviewing details. We received no such call. We returned home and had to follow up ourselves.
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
Basically, this sounds like a Brussels Airport issue ... and doesn't qualify under EC261 for a claim against the airline.
It feels like both, but we felt it was more Aer Lingus due to the fact that we arrived extremely early, and they were not even operating check-ins at the time, and when they finally did, all that wait on the front end pushed everything else back. Had they staffed more adequately like many other airlines, it would have been a non-issue.
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
Though, Aer Lingus might be a bit more sensitive to your inconvenience.
Also, did you have travel insurance? This is a situation where travel insurance would come in very handy.
I have travel insurance but it will only cover my own ticket, the other two do not have travel insurance unfortunately.

Last edited by vvaldellon; Jul 24, 17 at 9:31 am
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Old Jul 23, 17, 3:09 pm
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EDIT: Hmm. Not sure why my other post has to be approved by a mod and hasn't shown up yet while this post doesn't...

Hi ROKNA, thanks for the reply!
Originally Posted by ROKNA View Post
This doesn't make sense and as a result I can see why you are having issues

2:25 before departure you start queuing for check in, (check in opens 2:30 before)
45 minutes later issued with boarding cards so 1:40 before scheduled departure (no issue)
30 minutes to clear security, 1:10 before departure (no issue)
How long to get through passport control, its just after security

5 minutes to reach the gate, 1:05 to departure

So what happened here? There are no customs on departure in Brussels, no matter where you are going there are no customs
Our departure time was 10:10am and we arrived at the airport at about 6:30am. The check-in desk did not have Aer Lingus on the screen but instead Turkish Air I believe. We asked someone and they said check-ins for Aer Lingus would not begin until 2 hrs prior to departure. We returned at about 7:45am. The specified wait times during each line are all approximations, but I don't know the exact times, except that we finally got our bags checked right around 8:50am (I believe), and finally arrived at the gate at 10:25am where we were told that our tickets were cancelled and the flight had departed. There were 3 main lines: check-in, security (where they check you and your carry-on), and the other line where they check your passport. We did not stop anywhere in between.
Also of note, the times I specified did not take into account the transit time between each line/location. Aside from the fact that 5 minutes leaves very little margin for error, I doubt one can even cross the entire airport in 5 minutes..

Answers to each situation provided below:
Originally Posted by ROKNA View Post
I can only see four things
1. You had to visit the customs office to declare something for legal/export/import reasons (We did not)
2. You got pulled by customs for an ad hoc inspection, very rare and likely to be as a result of intelligence or something flagged at security (a travel-sized optical solution was flagged and delayed us for about 10 minutes, which I factored into the security line)
3. You decided to queue for a VAT refund (we did not)
4. You are confusing the passport control check with customs, all departing passengers leaving the Schengen countries must go through passport control and you got pulled aside for extra checks (I'm not sure what passport control is, but if its that amusement park sized line, then yes we went through that but we were not pulled aside)

For all four the Airline is not liable under EC261
The problem we had was that the airline did not want to take even a fraction of the responsibility whatsoever for cramming us into a 2 hour time-frame when we arrived at the airport 3.5 hours in advance, thus being indirectly involved in the delay of our return home for 1-day, and being entirely unaccommodating to our situation.
Originally Posted by ROKNA View Post
If it was just the queue was very slow, then you have a grievance as you arrived in good time, had been issued with a boarding card and proceeded directly through to the gate
Not sure I quite understand what this means?

Last edited by vvaldellon; Jul 24, 17 at 9:34 am
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Old Jul 23, 17, 3:11 pm
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First I would like to say, thanks for the replies.
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
Ok. Things seem a little clearer now. Sounds like it was a bit of a mess at the airport that day.
But I still have lots of questions.
You arrived at check-in 2+ hours before departure.
There was a line. You waited 45 mins. Did you not try one of the mobile check-in machines? Were you checking baggage?
If there were mobile check-in machines, we weren't aware of them as there weren't any in the vicinity. We were checking baggage.
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
Given that you were now approx 90 mins from departure, did you ask at the check-in if you could have expedited or priority security access given that the lines seemed long?
We did not. 1)We were not expecting the subsequent lines to be that long, and 2)We do not fly frequently, let alone out of the country often and are not aware of options such as asking for priority security access.
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
Once you had your BPs (boarding passes), it took you another 90 mins to go through security?
Did you speak up at any point and ask to be moved to the front of the line given that your flight was closing? If you didn't, then that's on you.
Yes, about 30 minutes to go through security, followed by another 45-50 minutes to go through passport check. During that line, it was apparent that if we were to wait the entire line, we would not make it to the gate in time. We asked if we could be moved toward the front as our departure time was coming up very shortly, and were told that its the same for everyone else.
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
When you reached the gate (and it sounds like the flight had closed?) who did you talk to? Did the agent re-book your ticket?
We talked to the people at table of the gate in question who checks your ticket. They told us to go pick up our checked bags at the baggage claim and go to customer service. This was followed by a day-long run-around, explained below.
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
You said you bought a new ticket. Who told you to do that? Did you call Aer Lingus on the phone? Or did you go back to the Aer Lingus ticket desk in Departures?
We initially booked through Expedia. When we received our bags, we were told to go to the Avia Partners desk who was working with Aer Lingus. They had us call both Expedia and Aer Lingus. The Expedia rep spoke with Aer Lingus and from what we can tell the latter were unwilling to work / accomodate us whatsoever. We then had the rep speak with the people at the Avia Partners desk and from overhearing their conversation it sounded like a lot of back-and forth finger pointing. We were on the phone on hold for hours. Finally, wanting to just return home we were told to book our flights at cost and an Aer Lingus representative will call us back after reviewing details. We received no such call. We returned home and had to follow up ourselves.
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
Basically, this sounds like a Brussels Airport issue ... and doesn't qualify under EC261 for a claim against the airline.
It feels like both, but we felt it was more Aer Lingus due to the fact that we arrived extremely early, and they were not even operating check-ins at the time, and when they finally did, all that wait on the front end pushed everything else back. Had they staffed more adequately like many other airlines, it would have been a non-issue.
Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
Though, Aer Lingus might be a bit more sensitive to your inconvenience.
Also, did you have travel insurance? This is a situation where travel insurance would come in very handy.
I have travel insurance but it will only cover my own ticket, the other two do not have travel insurance unfortunately.

Last edited by vvaldellon; Jul 24, 17 at 2:54 pm
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Old Jul 24, 17, 1:59 am
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To be very clear here

The Airline is only responsible if they or their agents messed up.

You checked in in good time, 80 minutes before departure, you proceeded to the gate, Check in is recommended two hours before departure, https://www.aerlingus.com/travel-inf...check-in-times so again don't see anything at fault

You refer to a delay at customs of an hour, but there ARE NO CUSTOMS at Brussels for any departing flight, so the story doesn't make sense

You are going to need to explain this
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Old Jul 24, 17, 2:04 am
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Yes, there are no customs, but the OP clearly means passport control. There is a passport check on exiting the Schengen Zone.

Even allowing for the fact that most European airports are busy in summer- the Brussels Airport website has its guide to busy periods here - I am surprised that it took so long to get through passport control. I had a quick search on Google News in Dutch and there are no current reports of delays at Zaventem (such news items were common shortly after the airport bombing).

To the OP: EU261/2004 doesn't apply if you fail to turn up at the gate on time. I hope you have travel insurance, and that is what you should be claiming on now. Good luck!
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Old Jul 24, 17, 2:18 am
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Originally Posted by vvaldellon View Post
EDIT: Hmm. Not sure why my other post has to be approved by a mod and hasn't shown up yet while this post doesn't...

Hi ROKNA, thanks for the reply!

Our departure time was 10:10am and we arrived at the airport at about 6:30am. The check-in desk did not have Aer Lingus on the screen but instead Turkish Air I believe. We asked someone and they said check-ins for Aer Lingus would not begin until 2 hrs prior to departure. We returned at about 7:45am. The specified wait times during each line are all approximations, but I don't know the exact times, except that we finally got our bags checked right around 8:50am (I believe), and finally arrived at the gate at 10:25am where we were told that our tickets were cancelled and the flight had departed. There were 3 main lines: check-in, security (where they check you and your carry-on), and the other line where they check your passport. We did not stop anywhere in between.
Also of note, the times I specified did not take into account the transit time between each line/location. Aside from the fact that 5 minutes leaves very little margin for error, I doubt one can even cross the entire airport in 5 minutes..

Answers to each situation provided below:

The problem we had was that the airline did not want to take even a fraction of the responsibility whatsoever for cramming us into a 2 hour time-frame when we arrived at the airport 3.5 hours in advance, thus being indirectly involved in the delay of our return home for 1-day, and being entirely unaccommodating to our situation.

Not sure I quite understand what this means?

Sometimes Airlines use shared check in desks and that is why Turkish were there when you arrived. Most airlines ( especially on a narrow body-if it is not their home airport) will open check in 2 hours. This is not LAX where say AA will be open all day covering a multitude of flights EI checked you in on time. THis is a failure at Brussels airport.
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Old Jul 24, 17, 2:22 am
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Yes, about 30 minutes to go through security, followed by another 45-50 minutes to go through customs. During the line at customs, it was apparent that if we were to wait the entire line, we would not make it to the gate in time.
This is not possible!
As ROKNA pointed out correctly:
There are no customs on departure in Brussels, no matter where you are going there are no customs
-----------

You wrote:

3) Security takes 30 minutes and Customs takes nearly an hour. By the time we clear customs it is already well past departure time.
That doesn't make sense.
You were flying from one EU airport (Brussels) to another EU airport (Dublin). While Customs are to carry out random checks, I never heard of extensive customs checks for an intra-EU flight.

What happened was probably that you were selected by some random inspection by Customs. They may have had some suspicions and the check took one hour.
I would take this up with Belgium Customs.

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https://financien.belgium.be/nl/douane_accijnzen

Last edited by warakorn; Jul 24, 17 at 2:49 am
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Old Jul 24, 17, 2:41 am
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Originally Posted by warakorn View Post
This is not possible!
As ROKNA pointed out correctly:


-----------

You wrote:



That doesn't make sense.
You were flying from one EU airport (Brussels) to another EU airport (Dublin). While Customs are not to carry out random checks, I never heard of extensive customs checks for an intra-EU flight.

What happened was probably that you were selected by some random inspection by Customs. They may have had some suspicions and the check took one hour.
I would take this up with Belgium Customs.

Algemene Administratie van de Douane en Accijnzen

https://financien.belgium.be/nl/douane_accijnzen
The OP has clarified that they meant the passport check necessary to exit the Schengen zone.

I've found that many from the US, where immigration and customs happen all together upon entry, don't realize they are two separate things and refer to any passport check as "customs."
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Old Jul 24, 17, 2:46 am
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Unfortunately this has nothing to do with EC261. At the end of the day, you failed to turn up at the gate on time. I understand that the passport control queue was a long one, but you should have been more forceful and pressed your case there rather than waiting in line. I think the offer made is quite generous. I would not waste any time on 'international litigation' as it will get you nowhere. Try your travel insurance provider instead.
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Old Jul 24, 17, 2:53 am
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The OP has clarified that they meant the passport check necessary to exit the Schengen zone.
No!

ROKNA wrote Yesterday, 11:47 am:
4. You are confusing the passport control check with customs, all departing passengers leaving the Schengen countries must go through passport control and you got pulled aside for extra checks
OP then replied Yesterday, 2:09 pm:
Yes, about 30 minutes to go through security, followed by another 45-50 minutes to go through customs. During the line at customs,
btw: Customs check passports too if a pax is selected for random inspection.
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