Could the value of my canceled flight really be just $26?


How much is a flight between Boston and New York worth? Anastasia Ivanenko is asking after American Airlines canceled the last leg of her flight home from St. Petersburg, Russia.

All she’s received is a $26 refund.

Ivanenko’s story, involving a code-share, extensive delays and a crew member timing out, is yet another case of airline math not adding up in the passenger’s favor. It is also, sadly, another case where our advocates were unable to successfully mediate on behalf of a consumer.

Ivanenko booked a nonrefundable ticket on Finnair from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Boston via Helsinki and New York for $1,700 to attend her father’s funeral. American Airlines operated the last leg of the flight.

Before leaving Russia, Ivanenko received an email from American Airlines asking her to rebook her flight to Boston because of possible stormy weather. While checking in for her flights in St. Petersburg and Helsinki, she asked Finnair employees whether they could reroute her on a different flight to Boston. They told her in both instances that because American Airlines had not canceled the flight, they could not do anything for her.

When Ivanenko arrived at Kennedy Airport in New York, she learned that her Boston flight was delayed. American Airlines extended the delay for several hours before allowing the passengers to board the plane. But once all the passengers had boarded and the crew closed the doors, the captain announced that his first officer’s allowable flight time had run out. The passengers, including Ivanenko, had to deplane.

Ivanenko then asked American’s customer service to rebook her flight. American’s agent told her that the airline’s next available flight to Boston would depart in two days.

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Says Ivanenko:

It seems utterly unfair to me how the company handled this situation. First, I requested a rerouting from Finnair in good faith after receiving email from AA about impending bad weather and [advice] to rebook. Second, AA knew about bad weather situation well in advance and should have enough crews on the ground to fill in for the crews that are timing out. Third, it felt very deliberate that they were offering everyone the flight options that no one would take (flying from New York to Boston two or three days after the canceled flight — this is a ridiculous option given the fact that it is cheaper to buy a new ticket to fly to Boston than spend a night in New York). This looked like an attempt from AA to get away with [not] paying for their mistake.


As Ivanenko needed to return home immediately, she rented a car and drove to Boston. While still at Kennedy Airport, she asked for a refund for the canceled flight, but the agent told her that she would have to use American Airlines’ website to submit a refund claim.

When Ivanenko returned home, she filed a claim for reimbursement for her unused airfare and for her rental car fee. American refused to reimburse Ivanenko for the rental car because the delays and cancellation were weather-related. And Ivanenko would have to ask Finnair for the airfare refund. Finnair also refused to refund Ivanenko’s airfare because her ticket was nonrefundable.

Ivanenko used our executive contact information for American Airlines and Finnair to complain about her treatment, to no avail. Disappointed with the airlines’ responses, Ivanenko asked us for assistance with her claim.

As Finnair had sold Ivanenko her airfare on its ticketing stock, we reached out to Finnair on Ivanenko’s behalf. Finnair issued a $26 refund to Ivanenko but did not respond to our inquiry.

Ivanenko wanted to know why Finnair would refund her such a small portion of her airfare. Our advocate told her that

As ticket prices are market-based on your actual departure/destination and not any intermediate stops, it is possible there could only be little or no value for the partial segment. Unfortunately, there is no law or government policy in the U.S. that requires airlines to provide reimbursement for canceled flights, normally the contract of carriage permits the airline to accommodate you on the next flight with availability (as in your case this could be days later), or provide a refund of the unused portion of the ticket.

He also mentioned that Finnair is subject to EU 261, the European Union’s air passenger consumer protection law, which provides that passengers are entitled to 600 euros (approximately $695) in compensation. (Finnair’s own conditions of carriage limit passenger compensation for delays and cancellations to those specified in EU 261.)

Our advocate suggested that Ivanenko could file a complaint with the National Authority in Finland, which won’t issue her the refund but could sanction Finnair if it finds that the airline wrongfully denied her claim.

Unfortunately, we aren’t able to do more for Ivanenko through direct advocacy. But we’ll ask our readers to answer Ivanenko’s question:

Is $26 a sufficient reimbursement for a canceled New York-to-Boston codeshare segment of an overseas flight on an airline subject to EU 261?

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

  • SirWIred

    I can’t say with 100% certainty, but I believe EU 261 compensation depends on the operating carrier, not the marketing carrier. Since the canceled flight was from non-EU to non-EU on a non-EU carrier, I don’t think EU 261 compensation is due, even though the ticket was sold by an EU carrier.

    Even the EU website on all this makes the succinct statement: “In case of any difficulties only the airline which operates the flight can be held responsible.”

  • FQTVLR

    There are a few things at issue here The fist is the fare for the domestic flight from JFK to Boston. It is too hard to answer the poll about the refund without seeing the actual fare breakdown on the ticket. I flew from a city I was visiting earlier this year via Atlanta to LHR. I had debated about going home to the ATL are first but saw that if I originated in another city that the ticket was only $43.00 higher than originating in Atlanta. A ticket to get back to ATL was substantially higher. So the $26.00 is actually believable. As to the mention of EU 261. We are not told if the original delay of the flight to Boston was due to the weather. If the original delay was weather related claiming under EU261 will be difficult–even if the co-pilot did time out. We had a similar scenario early this year when flight from AMS to BRU was cancelled. No EU compensation was forthcoming but the airline did reimburse the cost of the rail tickets we purchased.

  • Bill___A

    Condolences on the passing of her father. Most of us know how the airline “funny math” works. It isn’t optimal, but it is what it is. They were unable to fly her home due to weather and I expect there was no train or she might have opted for that rather than renting a car.

  • deemery

    Back in the days of paper tickets, I remember the price breakdown for each segment was shown on the ticket. Is that still the case?

  • Alan Gore

    The only cure for fake math will be real legislation.

  • Dan

    Last minute Amtrak tickets from NYC to BOS are never cheap. Not to mention the cost of getting from JFK to Penn station in Manhattan to make the train on time. A rental car might have been cheaper if the LW had access to corporate rates, or maybe found a good deal on Hotwire or something.

    I actually think a bus would have been the cheapest and possibly fastest ground transport option.

  • Doctor Now

    If she was ticketed from an EU country with a connection to her final destination, then EC 261 compensation may still apply per the EC court.

    https://loyaltylobby.com/2013/03/01/eu-court-ruling-on-connecting-flight-delays-ec-2612004/

  • SirWIred

    That only applies if there is a delay in the from-EU flight that causes you to miss your non-EU flight. In this case the EU-261 eligible flight operated on time.

  • Doctor Now

    With the majority of airlines the fare is based on the departure and final destination, not any connection airports.

  • Doctor Now

    The article does not indicate if her flight from the EU was delayed or not. If it was delayed even by one minute then based on the ruling she still may still benefit. It does not say anything about missing a flight, but arriving at the final destination at least three hours later than the scheduled arrival time.

    “…to a passenger on directly connecting flights who has been delayed at departure for a period below the limits specified in Article 6 of that regulation, but has arrived at the final destination at least three hours later than the scheduled arrival time, given that the compensation in question is not conditional upon there having been a delay at departure and, thus, upon the conditions set out in Article 6 having been met”

  • MF

    Alan, you’re such a snarky old curr, keep it real & keep it up!

  • Does the $26 even cover the cost of the taxes and fees?

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I think that rather than “funny” math, the airlines should be required to refund by miles flown. Here (per webflyer), St. Petersburg – Helsinki is 186 miles; Helsinki – New York is 4100 miles, New York- Boston is 186 miles (odd that the two numbers are the same, this may be a “feature” of the web site).

    So if we take the ticket price of $1700 and divide by (186+4100+186), we get a per mile cost of $0.38, so the 186 mile trip to boston cost $70. That is the amount that should be refunded.

  • Lindabator

    yes – and these addons to international fares are peanuts in cases like this

  • Lindabator

    It is NOT fake math — this was an international flight into NYC, then on to BOS — that final segment can be a simple $20 fare OFTEN – and since each ticket is clearly broken out segment by segment, nothing funny about it. Just because you want more money does NOT mean you either paid or are entitled to it

  • Lindabator

    covers the cost she paid for that small segment as an addon to the international ticket – quite common

  • Lindabator

    WHY??? She paid only $26 for that addon segment – why should they have to pay more???? Then they would have to raise ALL pricing to point by point fares, and no on would be abel to afford to fly

  • Mark

    I missed my train to Boston a couple of weeks ago, went on the Wanderu app, and found a Bolt Bus from NYC to Boston leaving within an hour for $19.

  • jim6555

    The JFK Airtrain is a people mover system which connects the terminals also connects to the Sutphin Blvd / Jamaica Long Island Railroad station. The Airtrain runs every few minutes and, while free in the airport, costs $5 for trips to Jamaica. There are LIRR trains from Jamaica to Penn Station departing about every 15 minutes The fare is $10.50 peak (trains Mon-Fri arriving at Penn between 6am-10-am), $7.50 off peak and $5.00 senior citizen/handicapped. Going by this route is usually faster than a cab or bus since they must fight their way through New York City traffic.

  • Michael__K

    If she originated in the EU, then the carrier doesn’t matter.
    In this case, she originated in Russia, which has its own law very similar to EC-261.
    She *might* have be covered by the Russian law, but good luck collecting.

  • Michael__K

    There isn’t a precedent that is completely on point, but if you follow the logic of the Sturgeon and Buckley decisions, what matters are the endpoints and not the connections. So if she originated in the EU, she would have a good case. The problem is she originated in Russia. Which actually has its own EC-261-style law. But I have no idea if the Russian law applies as broadly as the EU law per court precedents.
    The OP can try here: https://www.airhelp.com/en/airhelp-score/airline-ranking/su-aeroflot/

  • SirWired

    If we ignore the fact it’s a Russian flight for now… Certainly if you are flying to the EU and a totally non-EU flight causes you to miss your connection to the EU, you aren’t covered. (This example is right off the airhelp website.) It makes sense that the same would hold true going the other direction; so if your EU flight runs on time, and the only problem is your totally non-EU connection, you aren’t covered.

  • Michael__K

    The regulation was not written to apply symmetrically in both directions. Non-EU carriers are liable when the point of origin is in the EU but not when the point of origin is outside the EU.
    If you follow the reasoning of the Buckley decision, they suggest that all that really matters (for flights from the EU) is the actual arrival time at the “final destination” compared to the scheduled arrival time at the “final destination.”

  • SirWired

    A couple points:
    – The operating carrier responsible for the actual delay is the one that pays compensation. (So, if you book through AA, but the first (delayed) leg of your flight is on BA, BA pays, even if it would have been AA that operated the final leg.) In this case, the delayed operating carrier was AA for a wholly-US flight. Under no part of EU 261 does a non-EU carrier pay compensation for a flight that takes place wholly outside the EU.
    – In your cited decision, in both cases, the initial flight out of the EU was delayed, causing a missed connection. It’s true that the compensation was based on the delay to the final destination, but that’s only because it was an EU-jurisdiction delay that caused the problem to begin with.

  • Bill

    Anyway you break it down, someone will be unhappy. Dividing by mileage is one way, but since they aren’t priced by the mile, it isn’t quite valid. And a trip from Europe to the US, or East Coast to West Coast in the US, or West Coast to Hawaii, are all about 3000 miles, but they are priced radically differently, and have radically different operational costs, and very different competitive costs. When you account for all of those different ways of breaking it down, there is no one right answer.

  • Michael__K

    Your points are not supported by the Buckley opinion or any other CJEU opinion.
    I can’t find anything in the Buckley opinion which relies on a determination of which jurisdiction along the route the delay(s) happened.
    We have had this debate before, prior to the Buckley ruling. And then the most relevant precedent was the Folkert’s case. And you tried (like the industry) to argue that the Folkert’s precedent didn’t apply to non-EU carriers because the Folkert’s flew Air France out of the EU.
    Of course the court re-iterated it’s prior position from Folkerts in Buckley, that the endpoints are what matter and the arrival time at the final destination is what determines if delay compensation applies. Regardless of which segments on a journey from the EU are flown by which type of carrier.

  • MarkKelling

    True.
    When Continental used to fly from Ellington Field (EFD) to Houston Bush (IAH) (a 50 mile flight) you could add that segment onto your onward journey and return at a cost of ZERO (and get free parking, free coffee and donuts, and an additional 500 frequent flyer qualifying miles). When the TSA fee got added, you of course had to pay that. But that was it. I used this often especially on longer vacation trips to save the parking cost. Of course it you just wanted to book this flight on its own, it ran about $250!!

    So expecting a short commuter type flight to be a large portion of your entire international round trip is misguided at best. Take the $26 and be happy.

  • MarkKelling

    You would first have to remove all taxes and fees from the total of the flight and then arrive at the per mile value. You would then add in the taxes and fees related only to the segment being refunded to arrive at the cost for that segment to be anywhere close to a valid amount.

    The cost will not equate to what any airline will charge for that segment alone as most shorter commuter type segments are added at a very reduced cost just to get the passenger to pay for the higher priced segment.

  • SirWired

    I’ll admit that holding the original carrier of the flight out of the EU to the timeliness of the whole itinerary does hold a certain appeal to common sense. (After all, if your codeshared connecting flight cancels, your first call is to the marketing carrier.) But…

    Again, because of the way the law is written, I think the operating carrier of the delayed flight would be responsible (or not responsible, as the case may be.) “Operating carrier” is plastered all over EU 261 when it talks about rights, compensation, etc. The EU carrier would argue they don’t have to pay because they aren’t the operating carrier that delayed the passenger. The US carrier wouldn’t pay because they, and their flights, would be outside EU jurisdiction. (In many cases, a US connecting flight won’t be on a carrier that ever flies to/from the EU. Good luck collecting from JetBlue for a decision by an EU body because they happened to connect an Aer Lingus passenger.)

    Where it gets really interesting is multi-segment flights out of the EU on non-EU carriers. If I take CDG->ATL->MEM (DL all the way), and ATL->MEM is cancelled, is EU 261 compensation due? Probably. Folkerts and Buckley appear to say so. But what if the connecting flight was on some code-shared regional jet, e.g. Delta Connection? DL isn’t technically the operating carrier for the flight which was delayed, even though “Delta” is plastered on the side of the aircraft.

    The regulations simply don’t address itineraries with multiple operating carriers. Not even a bit.
    They probably should. (There’s more to address than just codeshares… there’s also alliance/interline bookings.) On the one hand, it’s not wholly out of the bounds of sense (even if the law is ambiguous) for the carrier on the flight leaving the EU to be responsible timely arrival of the whole trip, even if they are only the operating carrier for a portion of it. On the other hand, the way the law is written many parts of EU 261 don’t make sense for a wholly ex-EU connecting flight, but the relevant bits all refer to just “the” operating carrier. We would not expect, say, a JetBlue gate agent to be familiar with the bumping rules for every jurisdiction passengers started their trip from. We’d expect them to be familiar with FAA rules, of course, but familiar with EU 261 rules for the exact same situation? (Or whatever other jurisdiction wants to try and assert itself in this way.) Do they need the ability to cut checks in EUR and USD right there at the gate?

    And who would pay in that instance? For denied boarding, the compensation is supposed to be paid immediately by “the” operating carrier. That can’t be [EU Carrier], because they aren’t even at the gate in question; they might not even be in the same terminal. But we’ve already declared [EU Carrier] the operating carrier for the purposes of declaring them responsible for the whole trip. They can’t both be “the” operating carrier of the flight.

    It’s a problem with the drafting of the rules, but as of yet, there are precisely zero cases that actually have an example of a wholly ex-EU delay requiring compensation by the EU carrier. Either it’s an amazing coincidence that all the cases have involved delays that started with the initial flight in the itinerary, or the higher courts have turned down appeals for denials of compensation in such cases.

  • Michael__K

    The law as written and passed by the EU Parliament never considered connections. Everything was written in terms of flights, which were implicitly presumed to be non-stops from point A to point B. In that model it was obvious who the one and only operating carrier was.
    The Sturgeon decision (2009) effectively re-wrote the law to address inequities for connecting passengers. The case law is still catching up to all the ramifications of that decision. It takes a long time for these cases to be adjudicated in national courts and then appealed to the CJEU. Foelkerts wasn’t decided until 2013 and Buckley (2017) just 2 months ago.
    You can bet there are more cases in the pipeline, where there are one or more operating carriers involved, not necessarily EU carriers, that may share responsibility for a passenger’s delay to their final destination. Based on the court’s opinions in Foelkert’s and Buckley, I don’t see how they can deny compensation to these passengers. But you’re right that the court will have to determine which operating carrier is ultimately liable. Is it the last carrier (like for luggage claims per the Montreal Convention)? Or is it the ticketing/contracting carrier? We’ll have to wait and see.
    Regardless, passengers shouldn’t hesitate to file these types of claims. The statute of limitations in most of the EU is generally 5 years or longer, but some of these major CJEU decisions (like Buckley) have protected carriers from being deluged with old claims by closing the door to passengers who hadn’t already traveled or initiated their claims before the decision.

  • cscasi

    I would agree on your point here. But, not under the regular EC-261

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