Will this traveler ever see her Alitalia compensation?

Chantal Legge is supposed to fly to Toronto on an Alitalia flight from Rome, but the flight is canceled, and Alitalia rebooks her for the next day. But the new flight is overbooked. Legge ends up flying through Boston to get to Toronto. Alitalila promises compensation, but doesn’t deliver. Can we help Legge get what she is due?

Question: I was flying home to Toronto, Ontario, on an Alitalia flight out of Rome on April 29, 2017. They canceled the flight and rebooked us on a flight on April 30. Not a problem, but we had to pay for an extra night of accommodations. We arrived at the airport in Rome and learned that the new rescheduled flight was overbooked. So we were then booted off the plane and put on a connection flight to Boston that connected into Toronto.

We were promised 800 euros each (there are two of us) for our troubles. We filled out forms to receive our vouchers in “the next few days.” We were massively delayed and returned to Toronto over 48 hours later than we originally planned. I waited to hear from Alitalia for our voucher and never did. I sent them numerous emails asking for my voucher and compensation only to be ignored. I tried calling many times and was constantly told they would get back to me. It has now been over a month and I have received no word. Any ideas on what I might be able to do next? — Chantal Legge, Toronto, Ontario

Answer: I’m so sorry for the multiple layers of hassles you are enduring. This is one of the most frustrating cases I have yet run across. Alitalia should have promptly sent you the vouchers it promised, and the airline certainly should have been more responsive after all the disruptions it caused you.

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But Alitalia is a mess because it is currently in bankruptcy reorganization. This case highlights the importance of being vigilant about your rights when flights are oversold. A little research on an airline’s history and reputation never hurts as well.

You said you only accepted being kicked off your flight because of the promise of 800 Euro vouchers. But why accept a voucher on an airline that may soon be history? You probably did not know about the airline’s financial troubles. Even so, I usually recommend against accepting vouchers because they have to be used within a year or less. This can be fine if you absolutely know you will be traveling soon, but how likely is that on a foreign carrier? It is so easy for a year to slip by and see your compensation become worthless. Ask for cash compensation. If the airline won’t give it, they will probably move along to bumping someone else.

You handled your requests for compensation very well. They were clear, concise, and free of anger. You cited regulations (EU 261). It must have been infuriating to receive a computer-generated form letter each time along with a promise that they would “investigate.”

You turned to our advocates for help, and they hit the same walls because of the bankruptcy situation. But an airline representative finally called you, explaining that Alitalia has “stopped all funding for vouchers due to their bankruptcy and they have frozen all their funding for that area of customer service.” Convenient for them, miserable for you.

You asked if a takeover company might honor Alitalia’s outstanding compensation. One responder’s advice was that it depends on whether or not the bankruptcy court sells Alitalia’s assets subject to its liabilities. It could very well wipe out all unsecured claims and sell the assets free and clear, although Italian bankruptcy laws could be very different from ours.

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Our advocate added:

I’m very impressed that someone called you, Chantal. Sorry to say that there’s little chance of you ever seeing any compensation. I advise you to keep an eye on the unfolding story to watch what’s happening. When TWA went down, American swooped in quickly and there was very little disruption. If there’s a takeover, you may be able to resubmit your request. We see miracles here all the time, so don’t give up. Just think of all the people who are booked on Alitalia flights. Most of them will have to buy new tickets on another airline.

At least Alitalia got you to your final destination. That does not get you all your wasted time back, but it’s better than holding a useless ticket.


    Does bankruptcy stop them from paying the cash amount due under EU 261? The talk is all about vouchers but nothing about the actual payment that might be due. Why was the original flight canceled? Did they voluntarily get off the re-booked flight based on the promise of vouchers or were they involuntarily bumped? Answers to these questions tell us whether the OP should pursue the money that might be due or just give up on the vouchers.

  • Michael__K

    Alitalia filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States only, to protect its US assets.

    The OP was flying from Italy to Canada. EC 261 is an EU regulation, which is binding on EU Community Carriers such as Alitalia. Alitalia has not filed for bankruptcy in the EU.

    The OP should fill out the Air Passenger Rights EU Complaint Form and send it to the National Enforcement Body (NEB) for Italy (cartadiritti@enac.gov.it).

    The NEB can’t force the airline to issue you compensation, but they require the airline to respond in writing to every complaint. The NEBs also track complaints and can take action against carriers for systemic failure to comply.

    If Alitalia still drags its feet in response after an NEB complaint, choose a third-party to litigate your claim in exchange for a commission taken out of your compensation.
    Compare your options before committing. Some of the companies out there include:
    RefundMe (http://www.refund.me)
    AirHelp (http://www.getairhelp.com)
    EUclaim (http://www.euclaim.co.uk/)
    GreenClaim (http://www.greenclaim.com)
    Claimair (http://claimair.com/)
    WeClaim (http://www.weclaim.com/)
    Bott&Co (http://www.bottonline.co.uk/)

  • Kerr

    OP traveled in late April, before any filing.

    Sounds like they filed in the US because they aren’t paying their bills.

  • y_p_w

    Don’t know if there’s a final resolution, but the issue has been discussed, especially with lower-cost airlines that operate on the edge of solvency. They’ve discussed the possibility of mandatory insurance or a guarantee fund for compensation that can’t be touched.



    But EU 261 would be separate from this I would think. But the post does not show some details as to why they want a voucher and are not trying to get the cash that might be due.

  • PsyGuy

    It doesn’t really matter, an EU261 claim is an unsecured claim.

  • PsyGuy

    It isn’t.

  • PsyGuy

    Not altogether uncommon during bankruptcy.

  • Alan Gore

    This kind of story is why Alitalia is already made our Do Nit Fly list. The bankruptcy is just the cherry on top.

  • y_p_w

    EU 261 is mentioned in the resolution.

    having regard to Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights,


    Got it!

  • AlanBowen

    If Alitalia will not or cannot pay compensation which is legally due, they should no longer be flying. As others have commented, it is probably time to stop booking any future flights with them, no matter how cheap they may appear. Etihad invested a fortune in them and they have burned through every cent and no one will now invest unless the staff agree to major changes, which so far they have refused to accept.

    The other airline to be wary of at present is South African Airways which has run out of cash, and whose major bank has refused to lend any further funds. The government may well bail it out in the short term but I could think carefully before booking tickets for 2018

  • The Original Joe S

    TWA was the Pope’s airline…….

    Alitalia wanted to form a partnership with El Al, to be called Vel, I’ll Tell Ya.

    Just remember, an Italian airline will, historically, go halfway, and then turn around and go back!

    Ha ha ha ha ha!!!!

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