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EU 261 and downgrades, on reward flights and points-upgraded seats

EU 261 and downgrades, on reward flights and points-upgraded seats

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Old Aug 9, 18, 7:40 am
  #1  
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EU 261 and downgrades, on reward flights and points-upgraded seats

A discussion recently came up amongst friends, so I thought I'd ask the wise heads here.

Two hypothetical scenarios, both on type 3 (longhaul) flights where EU 261 would be applicable:
  1. I bought an upgradeable ticket with money, and upgraded it by points. I'm then downgraded at the gate.
  2. I used only points (and paid taxes and "surcharges") to obtain a reward flight in a premium class, and I'm downgraded at the gate.
Clearly, in each case I'm entitled to the difference in points between the class I booked and the class I got. However, EU 261 also provides that I should be entitled to a refund of (in this example) 75% of the ticket price.
  • In the first case, am I correct in assuming this is the price of the upgradeable ticket, plus any mandatory additional taxes and "surcharges" for the points upgrade, or is it some representative equivalent ticket price for the premium cabin?
  • In the second case, is the "ticket price" just the taxes and "surcharges", or (again) is it a representative ticket price for the premium cabin?
Thanks for any thoughts, particularly if they come with real-world examples of how it's been applied!
(I did search FT for similar questions, but they were very few, and answers contradictory.)
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Old Aug 10, 18, 11:11 am
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Smile My experience with downgrade on award flight

I was downgraded from business class, after I had already checked in and had boarding pass in hand, on a long-haul SAS flight. A careful reading of the EU 261 law reveals that there is no distinction made between a downgrade of an award flight and a downgrade of a paid-with-cash flight. Award flights are not free flights; they just use a different currency. I suggest reading the section of the law that pertains to downgrades.

What happened with me: I contacted the Swedish agency that handles enforcement for 261 compensation. They confirmed that I was due compensation and, because of the length of my flight, that compensation should be 75% of the cost of the flight. They advised me to directly contact the airline as a first step. That contact did not result in an offer to pay 75% compensation. In the end, it took eight months of back and forth, with the Swedish agency governing communication with the airline, for me to receive compensation. In the end, I received 75% of the cash cost of what a business class flight would have cost in USD on the day I booked my flight. The compensation, according to the law, is supposed to take place within seven days, but oh well...

The Swedish agency was very helpful and responsive. Each EU country has its own agency/office that handles these things. You can also hire a third party vendor to pursue compensation for you, but you will pay them a percentage of any compensation received.

Keep in mind that, as far as downgrades go, the length of the flight will determine whether you are entitled to 25%, 50% or 75% of the cost of the flight.

Good luck!
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Old Aug 15, 18, 3:12 pm
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Thanks, Cathchawave!
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Old Aug 15, 18, 3:48 pm
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The example in this thread is not a likely result in general. A carrier could easily satisfy the requirements of EC 261/2004 by refunding 75% of the base fare of the segment downgraded in the form of payment used, e.g. miles and/or cash. Thus, if one theoretically paid 50,000 miles and $200, one would receive 37,500 miles and $150 in cash.There is no requirement in the Regulation of refunding in some other form, e.g., all cash for an award ticket.

Remember that recent interpretations make it clear that the 75% applies to the base fare for the segment downgraded. That can be complex, but splitting up the value of segments often is.
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Old Aug 16, 18, 11:00 am
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In my case (see above post about SAS downgrade), I would have been satisfied to receive miles as compensation and I had even proposed that solution in one of my earlier correspondences. However, I had booked the award ticket using miles from a partner airline, not with SAS, so I presume that SAS was not set up to obtain miles from a partner airline, because SAS did not accept my suggestion. I'm not sure what kind of deal, if any, that an airline would have to obtain miles from a partner airline.

Often1 makes a good point, though. If following the letter of the law, the word "price," which is used in the legislation, could apply to either points or cash--both are currency.

There are a couple of other points that I should have added in my above post. Article 3.3 of the law directly states that the scope of the law applies to both flights paid in cash and to award flights (see red text below):

Article 3

Scope

1. This Regulation shall apply:

(a) to passengers departing from an airport located in the territory of a Member State to which the Treaty applies;

(b) to passengers departing from an airport located in a third country to an airport situated in the territory of a Member State to which the Treaty applies, unless they received benefits or compensation and were given assistance in that third country, if the operating air carrier of the flight concerned is a Community carrier.

2. Paragraph 1 shall apply on the condition that passengers:

(a) have a confirmed reservation on the flight concerned and, except in the case of cancellation referred to in Article 5, present themselves for check-in,

- as stipulated and at the time indicated in advance and in writing (including by electronic means) by the air carrier, the tour operator or an authorised travel agent,

or, if no time is indicated,

- not later than 45 minutes before the published departure time; or

(b) have been transferred by an air carrier or tour operator from the flight for which they held a reservation to another flight, irrespective of the reason.

3. This Regulation shall not apply to passengers travelling free of charge or at a reduced fare not available directly or indirectly to the public. However, it shall apply to passengers having tickets issued under a frequent flyer programme or other commercial programme by an air carrier or tour operator.

I also should have added to my above post that, even if one is on solid ground with the 261 law, one should be ready for foot dragging on the part of the airline. I'm sure many folks just give up. Qualifying for compensation under the law is one thing. Enforcement is another.
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Old Aug 18, 18, 5:35 am
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The best summary on FT of EC261/2004 (not EU), is in the BA forum.

The 2018 BA compensation thread: Your guide to Regulation EC261/2004
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Old Aug 24, 18, 4:22 am
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Originally Posted by LondonElite View Post
The best summary on FT of EC261/2004 (not EU), is in the BA forum.

The 2018 BA compensation thread: Your guide to Regulation EC261/2004
Wow! So much wisdom and knowledge in that thread! Thanks, LondonElite, that's golden. And thanks everyone else, too.
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