My flight from Iceland was canceled. So where’s my reimbursement?

When WOW Air cancels Bruce Nelson’s flight, he should have received immediate compensation under European consumer protection rules. So why is he still waiting six months later?

Question: My WOW Air flight from Keflavik, Iceland, to San Francisco was canceled for reasons I still don’t understand. It was to have arrived at SFO at 5:10 p.m. I was rerouted to Los Angeles, then flown to San Francisco on a United Airlines flight, which arrived at 10 p.m. Thus, I arrived at my destination almost five hours late.

I requested compensation from WOW Air for this cancellation and late arrival, per EU regulation 261. I believe the compensation for the late arrival is 600 euros.

I filed my claim with WOW Air six months ago. It remains “open” (no action taken). Several times I’ve sent e-mail to the WOW executives referred to in your column entitled “Wow! It’s hard to get a refund from airline” in the San Francisco Chronicle. They never responded. Can you help? — Bruce Nelson, San Bruno, Calif.

Answer: I feel your pain. I’ve also just suffered through a five-hour flight delay getting home on a budget airline. But you’re luckier than I was. I was flying a domestic U.S. carrier where the rules don’t require airlines to do much about delayed flights. (Well, they did give us free pizza.)

However, as you point out, because you were flying an airline based in an EU member country, your delay was covered by European Parliament regulation 261. That regulation specifies compensation for delays of varying lengths for flights of varying distances. Because your delay was more than four hours, on a flight longer than 3,500 kilometers, you are indeed entitled to the maximum benefit of 600 euros. And six months is way beyond the time limit of seven days airlines are given by the regulation to provide compensation. WOW Air isn’t alone in violating this provision though; it seems most airlines rarely meet this deadline. We have a detailed FAQ section on EU 261 on our advocacy website.

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When your initial claim seemed to be ignored, you followed our standard advice and used the contact information on our advocacy site to reach out to WOW Air executives. And still, despite a series of politely worded reminder emails from you recording the passing weeks and months with no action, the only response you got were form letters with frustratingly cheerful quips like “We do appreciate your patience and will get back as soon as possible!”

And so our advocates reached out on your behalf, and at long last you got a real response.

We sincerely apologize for the delay of your flight. In all honesty the effect of delays can be an unloving product for both passengers and the airline alike. We are well aware that a good reputation for flawless on time performance is highly valuable. Therefore we strive to keep a clean delay record for everyone’s best interest. The reason for delays are most often an unforeseen cause which by all means we try to avoid with all possible precautions and actions that we can take to minimize the effects.

According to the EU regulation no. 261/2004 you´re entitled to 600 euros. We would like to offer you the possibility to choose between the 600 euros or a gift certificate of total 700 euros.**

*The processing time of claims can take up to 4-8 weeks.
** You will receive the gift certificate within 3 business days.

We found it interesting that processing of your claim was still expected to take several more weeks, but they could get you a gift certificate in three days.

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Given your experience with WOW, we weren’t surprised to learn that you opted for cash.

Dale Irvin

Dale Irvin is a semi-retired writer and editor, now living in south Florida after three years roaming around North America in an RV. You can read about those adventures at fabulousfifthwheel.com.

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