The recent technology failure by Delta has roiled the airline community and harmed tens of thousands of passengers. Through all of this event, Delta has steadfastly refused to discuss the international cancellation and delays compensation ramifications or their actions that are available to passengers.
Passengers affected by the Delta technology failure should contact www.airhelp.com to check on international compensation that they are due from Delta for their failures. This compensation may range from more than $7,000 to about $660. It is worth checking.
The Montreal Convention
The Montreal Convention requires airlines to give passengers “written notice to the effect where [the] Convention is applicable it governs and may limit the liability of carriers in respect of death or injury and for destruction or loss of, or damage to, baggage, and for delay.” This provision, combined with DOT’s express authority to promulgate rules and regulations that protect consumers and discourage unfair and deceptive practices, necessitates that DOT take action and regulate how the Convention’s rights are presented to passengers.
The Montreal Convention establishes an international framework for dealing with issues arising out of international carriage of persons, baggage and cargo by air. While the passenger delay compensation clauses are the most ambiguous, they clearly establish a right to compensation in cases where the passenger can prove that they suffered damage due to the delay.
As restitution lies in the heart of the Convention, passengers are entitled to a reasonable recovery. While the existing case law is split on whether inconvenience damages are recoverable, it is generally agreed that mental pain or suffering damages are not. Meanwhile, the definition of “reasonable measures” remains subject to litigation, and most of the Montreal Convention cases are resolved on a case-by-case basis.
International delays. The Montreal and Warsaw conventions govern international travel and require substantial compensation for costly delays that are caused by an airline’s mistake or negligence. Under the Montreal Convention, a 1999 treaty, the maximum liability for economic damage caused by a flight delay is equivalent to 4,694 “special drawing rights.” Special drawing rights are an international unit of measure that has a floating exchange rate, just like a government currency. As of August 5, each SDR was worth $1.53 in U.S. dollars, according to the International Monetary Fund. That means the maximum compensation for this kind of delay would work out to $7,182. What you have to do to establish the value of your loss can vary by carrier.
EU Flight Cancellation and Delay rules
According to European Union (EU) rules, passengers flying between Europe and the United States have additional protections against delayed and canceled flights.
The EU Regulation introduces a three-tier system:
- In the event of long delays (two hours or more, depending on the distance of the flight), passengers must in every case be offered free meals and refreshments plus two free telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails;
- If the time of departure is deferred until the next day, passengers must also be offered hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the place of accommodation;
- When the delay is five hours or longer, passengers may opt for reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure.
On 4 September, 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on a definition for arriving at a destination. Articles 2, 5 and 7 of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February, 2004, establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91, must be interpreted as meaning that the concept of ‘arrival time,’ which is used to determine the length of the delay to which passengers on a flight have been subject, refers to the time at which at least one of the doors of the aircraft is opened, the assumption being that, at that moment, the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft.
In a ruling in November 2009, the Court of Justice of the European Union changed the interpretation of Regulation (EC) 261/2004 regarding flight delays, to include cash compensation similar to flight cancellations if the delay is three hours or longer at the destination, unless the airline can prove that the delay was caused by ‘extraordinary’ circumstances.
Before the ruling, cash compensation was only rewarded for cancelled flights but not for delays. Flight delays prior to the ruling gave the passenger the right to assistance free of charge as mentioned above. These rights still apply to the air passengers when faced with a delay.
This Regulation is applicable to all worldwide airlines when departure takes place within the EU and, in the case of flights from outside the EU to a destination within the EU, only to airlines licensed in a Member State of the EU.
EU Flight Cancellation
Note Number 2 in this list of compensation. These are amounts that must be sent to affected passengers should delays or cancellations occur.
- In the event of flight cancellation or denied boarding the passengers concerned have the right to:
- reimbursement of the cost of the ticket within seven days or a return flight to the first point of departure or re-routing to their final destination;
- care (refreshments, meals, hotel accommodation, transport between the airport and place of accommodation, two free telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails);
- compensation totalling:
- EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 kilometres or less;
- EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometers, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres.
- EUR 600 for all other flights.
- If the carrier offered you an alternative flight with a similar schedule, the compensation may be reduced by 50 percent. With cancelled flights, you won’t receive compensation if:
- the cancellation was due to extraordinary circumstances, for example due to bad weather, or
- you were informed 2 weeks before the scheduled flight date, or
- you were offered an alternative for the same route with a similar schedule to the original one.
- For cancellation due to extraordinary circumstances you may not have the right to compensation, the carrier must still offer you either:
- a ticket refund (in full or just the part you have not used)
- alternative transport to your final destination at the earliest opportunity or
- rebooking at a later date of your choice (subject to seat availability).
- Even in extraordinary circumstances, airlines must provide assistance when necessary, while you are waiting for alternative transport.
- This Regulation is applicable to all worldwide airlines when departure takes place within the EU and, in the case of flights from outside the EU to a destination within the EU, only to airlines licensed in a Member State of the EU.
Charlie Leocha is the President of Travelers United. He has been working in Washington, DC, for the past 11 years with Congress, the Department of Transportation and industry stakeholders on travel issues. He was the first consumer representative to the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections appointed by the Secretary of Transportation from 2012 through 2018.