Six months later and this couple is still waiting for their EU 261 reimbursement

The check is in the mail. You’ve heard that one before. Eduardo Hernandez asked us for assistance in helping his parents to get their check for a delayed flight on Emirates. The flight was in August, and Hernandez has been trying ever since to get his parents their payment. However, there was a problem with the refund process, and this time the culprit wasn’t the travel provider. Could the Hernandezes bank on our advocates being successful?

Question: On October 19, 2016, my parents were on Emirates Airlines nonstop from Milan, Italy to JFK. The flight was four hours late. I immediately submitted a claim on their behalf, based on the EU 261 rule regarding delays due to equipment maintenance.

In mid-November, an Emirates representative confirmed that the flight was actually delayed three hours, 52 minutes, and thus the reimbursement would be 300 euros ($316) per passenger, and not 600 euros, which had been requested. She sent forms that had to be printed, completed by hand, scanned and e-mailed back.

In December, I repeatedly inquired as to the status of the confirmed payment, with no replies. Finally, the representative wrote back to say she had never received the forms. They were immediately re-sent. In January, I wrote seeking update on reimbursement. No replies. In February, the representative requested clarification as to the bank routing numbers provided.

At the end of February, she requested a postal mailing address to send a check, saying the bank wire reimbursement had been declined. A mailing address was immediately provided. There has been no confirmation of receipt of the mailing address, and more importantly, no date provided when reimbursement would be provided. Emirates has never called, offered a phone number to contact them, nor explained why they’re not tracking this matter. Presumably, an entire full flight of passengers aboard the A380 aircraft was each due a 300 euro reimbursement.

Could you help me get reimbursed as required by law, and agreed to in writing by Emirates Airlines? The delaying tactic of issuing payments when due is a pattern for which Emirates has lost my respect. Eduardo Hernandez, Yonkers, New York

Answer: You’re a great son for helping out your parents with what turned out to be a complicated reimbursement process. You printed the forms, signed them and sent them back. Payment should have been made in a timely manner, and when it wasn’t, you tried on your own to work it out with Emirates.

Related story:   Is a French air traffic control strike a valid reason to deny EU 261 compensation?

First off, you did a great job referring to the EU 261 regulations, which pertain to flight disruptions in Europe. The key provisions are:

1. When an operating air carrier reasonably expects a flight to be delayed beyond its scheduled time of departure:
(a) for two hours or more in the case of flights of 1500 kilometres or less; or
(b) for three hours or more in the case of all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres and of all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres; or
(c) for four hours or more in the case of all flights not falling under (a) or (b),
passengers shall be offered by the operating air carrier:
(i) the assistance specified in Article 9(1)(a) and 9(2); and
(ii) when the reasonably expected time of departure is at least the day after the time of departure previously announced, the assistance specified in Article 9(1)(b) and 9(1)(c); and
(iii) when the delay is at least five hours, the assistance specified in Article 8(1)(a).
2. In any event, the assistance shall be offered within the time limits set out above with respect to each distance bracket.
Article 7
Right to compensation
1. Where reference is made to this Article, passengers shall receive compensation amounting to:
(a) EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 kilometres or less;
(b) EUR 400 for all intra-Community [within Europe] flights of more than 1500 kilometres, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres;
(c) EUR 600 for all flights not falling under (a) or (b).
In determining the distance, the basis shall be the last destination at which the denial of boarding or cancellation will delay the passenger’s arrival after the scheduled time.
2. When passengers are offered re-routing to their final destination on an alternative flight pursuant to Article 8, the arrival time of which does not exceed the scheduled arrival time of the flight originally booked
(a) by two hours, in respect of all flights of 1500 kilometres or less; or
(b) by three hours, in respect of all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres; or
(c) by four hours, in respect of all flights not falling under (a) or (b),
the operating air carrier may reduce the compensation provided for in paragraph 1 by 50 %.
3. The compensation referred to in paragraph 1 shall be paid in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank orders or bank cheques or, with the signed agreement of the passenger, in travel vouchers and/or other services.

What the provisions of EU 261 seemed to indicate were that since your parents’ flight was about 6,400 kilometers (about 4,000 miles) and the delay was just under four hours, they were entitled to compensation under Article 7, Paragraph 1(c) of 600 euros each. However,
Emirates amended the compensation with this response:

In Article 6, paragraph 1, section (c), you will note that the requirement for compensation is applicable when the delay arrival is equal to or exceeds three hours if the flight is longer than 3,500 kilometers. In Article 7, paragraph 2, section (c), if the actual arrival time of the flight does not exceed the scheduled arrival time of the flight by four hours, the operating air carrier may reduce the payment provided in paragraph 1 by 50 percent.

The actual delay to this flight was 3 hours and 52 minutes.

In accordance with the EC regulation 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of the European Union, you are entitled to EUR 300.00 each (Euros Three Hundred only).

Nevertheless, there still was an issue with getting the compensation Emirates promised to your parents. First off, Emirates was proactive by contacting you to say they had not received the paperwork you had sent. Unfortunately, that alone delayed payment by a few weeks as you had to re-submit the forms.

Once the forms finally were received you waited longer than expected for the money to be transferred to your parents’ accounts. Then you finally received this correspondence from Emirates’ representative:

I have been advised that your payments have been rejected by your bank due to incorrect routing bank references.

Would you please advise your mailing address so that our accounts team in the US can mail cheques directly to you.

At this point, you re-sent your parents’ address to Emirates and then gave up trying to solve this international incident on your own when Emirates stopped taking your calls. You could have escalated the complaint with one of the executive contacts at Emirates. We list them on our website. Instead you contacted one of our advocates, who reached out to his contacts at Emirates and determined that there was an issue with your bank making itself available to accept the wire transfer.

There seems to be a problem with many U.S. based banks not having a Swift Code. It’s used to uniquely identify banks and financial institutions globally. It says who and where they are. These codes are used when transferring money between banks, in particular for international wire transfers. You can find your bank’s Swift Code online.

Unable to receive a correct Swift Code for your bank, we were able to arrange for the funds in the form of checks. You were pleased to inform us that you soon received via overnight express two checks representing your parents’ EU 261 settlement.

Another successful advocacy, and a painful lesson learned about international monetary transactions. Congratulations on successfully helping out your parents. Wishing them friendlier skies in the future.

Mark Pokedoff

Four-time Emmy-award-winning television sports production specialist and frequent traveler. Longtime freelance writer and travel blog enthusiast. Proud papa of four amazing kids who have been upgraded to first class more than all their friends combined.

  • Bill___A

    “There seems to be a problem with many U.S. based banks not having a SWIFT Code. ” I am surprised by this statement. I expect that a bank wouldn’t be able to be in business without one. Admittedly the process can be complicated as many transactions go through certain correspondent banks. I would be willing to accept the fact that you could go into a bank in the USA and many employees would not have a clue what a SWIFT code is. If anyone knows of a specific bank that does business and retail banking, and doesn’t have a SWIFT code, I would be very interested in knowing. Or is this an “alternative fact”?

  • John Baker

    I’m more inclined to believe that the bank gave her the info for an ACH transfer instead of an international wire. Most Americans wouldn’t know the difference.

  • William Leeper

    First BankCorp in Fort Smith, AR doesn’t, and it is one of the largest banks in this region. Neither do their subsidiaries First National Bank of Sallisaw, First National Bank of Fort Smith, First National Bank of Northwest Arkansas, First National Bank of Rogers, First National Bank of Lowell, National Bank of Fayetteville, Citizens Bank and Trust, or Brown Hiller and Clark.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Lots of small banks and credit unions don’t have them. They contract with a larger bank to handle the rare international wires they get – funds are sent to the larger bank via SWIFT, and then the larger bank sends them on with the small bank’s ABA routing code.

  • AAGK

    I would expect my bank to know more than most Americans about, well, banking

  • Lindabator

    not if she said just a transfer – not specified as international

  • John Baker

    More that once, I told my old back that someone was going to wire me money only to have them send me the information for an ACH transfer instead of a wire.
    It has more to do with Americans not understanding the difference between the two and the bank assuming which one you want than anything else.

  • AAGK

    I have had this same experience when I used diff ban for checking and investment accounts. I think they purposely misunderstood me bc my banker was trying to save me the extra surcharge for a wire. Meanwhile he didn’t try to save on his fees. Err. You make a great point. This would be a good subject for an article bc there is def a lot of confusion about card holds and money transfers, esp with plane tickets and hotels.

  • Bill___A

    Why are wire transfers in the Fort Smith AR First Bancorp’s schedule of fees? Whether these banks have their own SWIFT Code or not the first one I looked up on the list does apparently offer the service in some sort of a way, whether directly or through a correspondent bank (which is common even with banks that do have a SWIFT code depending upon the currency. I find it hard to believe that there are banks that do not offer wire services of some sort, but I am not concerned enough about it to look up each one. As mentioned, I did look up the first one on your list and it has the service in some form. However, admittedly, there are some banks that make it difficult. I remember someone in the UK telling me that her dad’s bank in Illinois had told her dad they couldn’t wire money to the UK – and with my help, this was proven to be wrong. There is, oftentimes, just a lack of knowledge and lack of ability to escalate at the branch level.
    FirstBanKCorp in Fort Smith does indeed make it expensive:
    Wire Transfers (service available to customers only): Wire Transfer In: $5.00 per transferPhone Notification additional: $5.00 per transferDomestic Wire Transfers Out: $20.00 per transferCash Management Wire Out: $5.00 per transfer Foreign Wire Transfers: Commercial: $75.00 per transferConsumer: $75.00 per transfer up to $5,000. Wires over $5,000 is $75 + 1% of the wire amount.

  • Bill___A

    My experience is that some of them know a lot, and some of them don’t know more than exactly the basic functions of their job. I have accounts at three American banks….

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