Denied boarding on Airberlin — where are those 600 euros they owe me?

When Brittany Gilroy’s Airberlin flight is oversold, the airline promises her 30,000 miles as compensation – and doesn’t follow through. What is Gilroy entitled to? And can our advocates shake it loose?

Question: I recently purchased a ticket on Airberlin from Düsseldorf, Germany, to Kennedy Airport in New York. When I was unable to check in online and print a boarding pass for my flight, I decided to get my boarding pass at the airport.

Unfortunately, my flight was oversold and I was denied boarding. An Airberlin representative told me that I would receive 30,000 frequent flyer miles on Airberlin as compensation, but I don’t live in Germany and can’t use the miles. When I pointed this out to the representative, she then told me I was entitled to the cost of my flight under European Union Rule 261.

I tried contacting Airberlin by both phone and email, but the only response I’ve received told me that I have to submit a request for a refund using Airberlin’s online complaint form or by letter, because it isn’t possible for the guest relations team, which is responsible for handling complaints, to resolve them by phone or email.

Airberlin offered me only 50 euros as compensation for being bumped, which is completely unfair. Can you help me get the cost of my flight refunded? — Brittany Gilroy, New York

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 Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

  • MF

    Being a bit cynical, I can imagine that AirBerlin instructed their CSR’s to ‘test’ unhappy passengers to see if they really understand rule 261, and to offer less than full compensation to return more money to shareholders if the PAX did not press for fair compensation.

  • jsn55

    I don’t understand why she didn’t follow their instructions and file a request for a refund in writing. Calling an airline’s CS department generally means you’ll get little help unless your problem is very simple. Isn’t writing the best way to handle these kinds of issues? Or maybe I missed something.

  • sirwired

    While we can’t say for certain, I’d say it’s entirely possible that she would have gotten her payment, had she followed the instructions.

    When AA owed me an EU 261 payment, I happened to find the special e-mail address for such claims on my own, but I wouldn’t have thought anything of it if I had contacted customer service had I contacted them and they asked me to use it.

    Yes, it’d be nice if they could process everything informally over phone or a single e-mail department, but filling out a web form is hardly the trials of Job.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I just wish we had EU 261 in the US.

  • MF

    Amen (and it’s not even Sunday)!

  • Steve Rabin

    How do they get away with having different rules for US/Canada flights, when rule 261 makes it clear that it applies to all EU based airlines, regardless of where the flight originates (not that this is relevant in this case considering the flight started in the EU).

  • cscasi

    I believe that a lot of the airlines will do whatever they can to avoid paying or pay as little as they can, just to save money. No, it is not right, but so many passengers do not know the rules and/or do not file a complaint with the proper authorities when something like this happens, so they get away with it. Or, they do not file the proper form with the airline and are not properly compensated. It is a shame but it happens all the time. I have learned a lot from what I have read here and it will help me be better prepared when something happens to me when I am on a trip.

  • joycexyz

    Why can’t airlines (and other companies as well) be required to inform customers of their rights? Are we all supposed to be conversant in the law?

  • Lindabator

    no – just not too lazy to fill in the form and submit it for the full refund – she was told did, chose not to, and then expects them to do something over the phone – have filed online for my clients without ANY problems – just do it and you will get an email in short order

  • Mark

    It wouldn’t surprise me if they explicitly target American passport holders for IDB, as they may be less aware of EU261.

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