A self-advocacy hero emerges amid a familiar cast of characters

By | November 9th, 2016

If you’re a regular reader of this site, then Peter Mescher’s name will probably sound familiar to you. He’s one of our regular commenters — and today, he’s also one of our advocacy heroes.

The word “hero” may be a little overused, but one more time isn’t going to make a difference. I think consumers like Mescher, who take matters into their own hands using techniques they’ve picked up from this site, are everyday heroes we can all look up to.

Mescher’s story is filled with a few other characters you probably know, like American Airlines and a little regulation called EU 261.

He and his wife were scheduled to fly from London to Raleigh, N.C., this summer.

“The morning of our departure, we were informed the flight was canceled,” he says. “After about an hour on hold — there was some bad weather in the Northeast, I think, so the call center was backed up — the phone rep, who was friendly and helpful throughout, got us booked on the same flight the next day.”

This was an acceptable solution.

“When we showed up the next day at the airport, I asked the gate clerk why yesterday’s flight was canceled,” he says. “She responded that it’s a plane that flies back and forth between Raleigh and Heathrow, and it never left Raleigh Friday night due to a mechanical problem.”

Of course, mechanical failures are covered under EU 261, the European consumer protection regulation. American owed Mescher and his wife 600 euros each.

No one had offered him any kind of claim form, so Mescher suspected that American would invoke the “extraordinary circumstance” excuse — basically, claiming that the delay was caused for reasons beyond its control, even though a mechanical problem is well within an airline’s control.

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He sent American a brief, polite email asking for his 600 euros.

Here’s an excerpt from his note:

The flight was cancelled. The reason given was a mechanical problem, which, is explicitly NOT considered an “extraordinary circumstance” under EU261.

I did not arrive at my final destination until 24 hours after the originally scheduled time.

As the scheduled flight length was over 3500 km, I was delayed longer than three hours, and the cancellation was not due to an extraordinary circumstance, compensation in the amount of EUR 600 is due per passenger.

I’m including this key excerpt because I believe the combination of sending his grievance to the correct address and properly invoking chapter and verse of EU 261, as he did, made the difference.

American didn’t offer an empty apology or a voucher. It cut him a check.

“They offered me either the check I asked for, or a $1,000 voucher,” he says. “I don’t necessarily agree with all the provisions of EU 261, but this is the framework airlines have voluntarily chosen to operate in, so I’m more than happy to use said framework to obtain the money the law says I’m clearly due. The system works.”

I’m happy for Mescher and his wife. You deserve an award for your advocacy!

But I wonder about the other passengers on his flights who didn’t know any better. Did they just fly back to Raleigh the next day and not receive any compensation, believing their flight had been delayed because of “extraordinary” circumstances? How much EU 261 money was left on the table?

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Thank you for sharing your story, Peter. May we all learn from it.

  • Kathi C

    Great job!

  • Kerr

    The story didn’t mention it, but did AA cover the extra night in the hotel plus meals and transportation?

    600 Euro is ~$657 these days, so $1,300+ in cash is much better that $2K in vouchers.

  • Regina Litman

    Thanks for sharing this story with us.

  • Alan Gore

    Thats’ a good point. Europe doesn’t have any decent $100 business hotels. When we had to spend a night at the airport Radisson at Kloten once, it was over $500.

  • PsyGuy

    The lesson here is to always plead for EU261 and then ask for hotels and meals and transportation. Then ask for UFP charter section 8. Then Occam’s Corollary, then the first and then the second law of thermodynamics (it’s the law). No one EVER gets anything out of an airline without asking for or demanding it.

  • DepartureLevel

    Good move on his part (and he stayed calm and reasonable). It’s just sad that most travelers don’t know about this or they reach employees who are unknowlegeable or unwilling to help.

  • Pegtoo

    I so wanted to shout “google EU261” to the crowd waiting with me to board our rescheduled flight a couple years ago… and regret that I didn’t.

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