Extraordinary circumstances leads to the ordinary EU 261 rejection from Aer Lingus

Extraordinary circumstances often lead to EU 261 rejection on Aer Lingus.

Aer Lingus rejected Jonathan Loughran’s claim for EU 261 compensation. According to Aer Lingus, extraordinary circumstances were in effect, thus exempting the airline from paying the claim.

Surprise, surprise.

EU 261, the air traveler protection regulation that covers flights to and from countries in the European Union, provides that passengers on delayed and canceled flights must receive compensation from the airlines. However, the law contains an exemption for extraordinary circumstances, which allows the airlines to deny claims for EU 261 compensation.

Unfortunately for many air travelers, EU 261 doesn’t clearly define extraordinary circumstances. Our advocates suspect that EU 261’s lack of clarity allows many airlines to get away with availing themselves of the exemption in questionable instances. But did extraordinary circumstances actually exist in Loughran’s case?

So, what are extraordinary circumstances?

Extraordinary circumstances are those over which the airlines have no control. The text of EU 261 defines extraordinary circumstances as

…cases where an event has been caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. Such circumstances may, in particular, occur in cases of political instability, meteorological conditions incompatible with the operation of the flight concerned, security risks, unexpected flight safety shortcomings and strikes that affect the operation of an operating air carrier.

But this is at best a vague definition. We’ve been seeing airlines invoke it in situations that appear to be controllable.

Could Aer Lingus have avoided this situation?

Loughran’s flight from Los Angeles to Dublin was delayed when a luggage loading vehicle collided with the aircraft at the gate, requiring an inspection. The delay lasted three and a half hours.

Passengers on flights subject to EU 261 of more than 3,500 kilometers are entitled to compensation of 600 euros ($735) per person. Loughran, who was flying with his wife and infant son, believes his family should have received 1,800 euros from Aer Lingus:

This type of mechanical issue is specifically excluded under extraordinary circumstances (such as [an] air traffic control strike) that would absolve them of compensation, I believe. The EU ruled that mobile stairs colliding with a plane is not extraordinary circumstances, so it should follow that the luggage loading vehicle be treated the same.

The case Loughran is referring to involved a Condor flight canceled because of damage resulting from an aircraft colliding with mobile boarding stairs. The court found that “such mobile stairs or gangways are indispensable to air passenger transport, enabling passengers to enter or leave the aircraft, and, accordingly, air carriers are regularly faced with situations arising from their use. … Consequently, such an event cannot be categorized as ‘extraordinary circumstances’ exempting the air carrier from its obligation to pay the passengers compensation in the event of a long delay to a flight.”

Aer Lingus’ response

Loughran submitted his claim to Aer Lingus’ customer service. After waiting more than 40 days for a response, he received a denial of his claim from a guest relations executive named Christine, based on extraordinary circumstances.

While awaiting this reply, Loughran might have used our executive contact information for Aer Lingus to escalate his case. Instead, he asked our advocacy team for help with his EU 261 compensation claim.

Appealing an EU 261 compensation denial

Our advocate, Michelle Couch-Friedman, suggested that Loughran write to Aer Lingus to request an explanation of the delay. When Aer Lingus refused to provide this, Loughran filed a complaint with the Commission for Aviation Regulation, Ireland’s national enforcement body for EU 261.

Although national enforcement bodies can’t provide compensation to air passengers for delays or cancellations of flights subject to EU 261, they can require airlines to explain the reasons for their claim denials. And if those reasons don’t pass the smell test, EU 261 allows the national enforcement bodies to sanction the airlines.

Loughran has promised to notify us when he receives a response from the Commission for Aviation Regulation. Our advocates don’t believe they can assist him further with his case. We are writing about it to encourage our readers to file complaints about questionable EU 261 compensation denials with the respective national enforcement bodies of the European Union. Hopefully, the EU will come up with a more transparent definition of extraordinary circumstances and close this loophole.

Underwritten by

Underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Underwritten by Enterprise

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

Underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

%d bloggers like this:
Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.