You have no case because Icelandair says so

Icelandair offered Kevin Kirkpatrick the legally required compensation after a flight delay. He wants more. Can we get it for him?

Kirkpatrick’s case underscores the fact that many companies will only meet the requirements of the law, and not exceed them, even when going above and beyond is the right thing to do. It’s also a reminder that when you invoke a law, you shouldn’t expect more than the law demands.

Kirkpatrick was trying to get to his home in Calgary, Canada, from Amsterdam. Nothing about this trip went smoothly. First, his departure was delayed for three hours because of equipment problems. Then, when that first flight made a scheduled stop in Reykjavik, Iceland, things got worse. We’ll let him explain:

Icelandair insisted on rerouting me and about five other passengers through Montreal because the connecting flight to Edmonton for the day had left. I didn’t want to go to Montreal, but was given no other option.

Once in Montreal, the group was told that no tickets to Edmonton had yet been booked and that we would have to phone Icelandair’s customer service line ourselves and wait for about an hour to speak with someone to book tickets. They also told us that no hotels were available because of the Canada Day holiday weekend.

We were told to sleep in the airport terminal but weren’t even offered food, cots, lounge access, or a secure place to store carry-on luggage. Staff told us to buy our own food and submit receipts for reimbursement, then left.

Icelandair got him to Edmonton the next day. But because of the delay, Kirkpatrick had to book new transportation from Edmonton to Calgary. However, his luggage wasn’t delivered for nearly a week.

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He submitted his reimbursement claims the week he got home, but got only silence from the airline for several months. He could have escalated his issue by writing to the Icelandair contacts in our company contacts list. We also have pointers on how to write an effective complaint letter on our website.

Instead, he brought in the big guns. Since his flight originated in Amsterdam and was covered by European Union rules, Kirkpatrick contacted the Dutch government agency that regulates civil aviation to invoke his rights under EU Rule 261. That rule, which is explained on our website, spells out specific passenger rights and compensation for flights that depart from or arrive in the EU.

Government action got the airline to respond. Icelandair did what they were required to do, offering him 600 euros plus reimbursement for his meals at the airport and for items he had to buy while waiting for his luggage, for a total of about $1,000 Canadian. That was the minimum required under EU 261. But he wants more.

“The airline refused to provide any compensation for forcing me to sleep in an airport terminal after a trans-Atlantic flight,” he said. “Given how bad the whole experience was, I thought Icelandair should have offered to refund my ticket, or a travel voucher, or at least to pay for the transportation from Edmonton to Calgary that I had to rebook at about $200. They offered none of this.”

Our advocates contacted Icelandair, but the airline held firm in its position, saying, “all passengers on that flight were taken care of equally, to the best of our ability, and in keeping with EU law.” The airline said that it would not do anything more for Kirkpatrick.

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Could he have gotten more than the minimum if he had handled it differently? It’s hard to say.

Spending the night in an airport terminal is uncomfortable at best. Icelandair should have treated him better. But we don’t see many passengers getting additional compensation for their annoyance and frustration.

Once a government agency gets involved in enforcing a regulation, it’s more than likely that an airline will do what the law requires — no less, but probably no more either. In fairness to the airline, the 600 euros, about $640 in U.S. dollars, did cover his $200 Canadian cost for the transportation from Edmonton to Calgary with money left over.

Icelandair says it did what was required, and as far as they’re concerned, the case is closed. So we have to label this one as Case Dismissed.

Did Icelandair do enough for Kevin Kirkpatrick?

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Abe Wischnia

Abe started his working career as a television news reporter and newscaster before moving to corporate communications and investor relations. Now retired and having learned useful tips from, one of his volunteer activities is writing for us. Read more of Abe's stories here.

  • deemery

    An airline that does what it’s legally required right away without prompting is one thing. But when the airline fails to meet those requirements for months and after an intervention from a regulatory authority has not met the intent of the law.

    Of course, lawyers argue ‘intent’ in court all day long, and I agree with the expectations that getting the government involved will cause airline lawyers to insist they must set no precedent by exceeding legal requirements.

    Maybe the EU can add to the existing regulations some sort of penalty when the airline does not meet its obligations in a timely manner.

  • Barthel

    The delay is similar to the actions of many companies, especially insurance companies. They hope that if they wait long enough, the customer will give up and go away.

  • ChelseaGirl

    It’s clear that Icelandair handled this abominably. I’ver never heard of an airline refusing to rebook passengers and abandoning them at the airport. However, $1,000 does cover his expenses, with a lot left over.

  • scot2512

    American did it to me in Chicago. Our flight to Rome was supposed to leave Chicago at 4:30pm and they boarded at midnight. at 12:30 am they decided the crew had too many hours and took everyone off the plane. They gave us hotel vouchers but didn’t even try to rebook anyone. I stayed on the phone with reservations until 5:00am before I finally got someone to rebook us. I suppose I should be glad they at least gave us hotel vouchers although I got no sleep.

  • ” to the best of our ability” is irrelevant. If you are operating under EU law with a defined contract of carriage then that is what you must do. In this case it meant that they should have automatically provided them food and hotel vouchers and rebooked all the way home.
    The distance from Montreal to Edmonton is around 3,500 km. Leaving them in Montreal isn’t even getting close.

  • Steve Rabin

    I’m confused–doesn’t article 9 of the EU 261 say the airline must provide lodging for long delays? Perhaps nothing was available in Montreal due to Canada day, but how hard did Icelandair try?

  • Bill___A

    Did he check for hotel rooms himself? I surely would have done that. And I would have paid for a hotel room if there was one available, I don’t want to spend the night on an airport floor and haven’t yet.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Is Iceland air the European version of Spirit?

  • AAGK

    If he chose to sleep on the floor of an airport, that’s on him. There’s nothing to reimburse.

  • Lindabator

    they did not leave them in Montreal – they flew them to Edmonton, but then he had to drive to Calgary

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