Gabi Tanis’ flight from Frankfurt to New York is canceled after a pilot falls ill. Isn’t she entitled to compensation under EU rules?
Question: My husband and I are Delta SkyMiles members and have generally been very happy with flying Delta Air Lines over the years. Unfortunately, last week we were confronted with a flight cancellation out of Frankfurt returning to New York.
Delta says the flight was canceled because one of its pilots fell ill. We had to pay for accommodations and meals in Frankfurt and waited until the next day of our return flight. Aren’t we entitled to some compensation under EU law? — Gabi Tanis, Audubon, Pa.
Answer: Yes, you are. EU 261, the European consumer protection law for airline passengers, should have applied to your flight.
Unfortunately, airlines try to weasel out of EU 261 claims with the extraordinary circumstances loophole, which was supposed to have been closed in 2008. Alas, American carriers continue to thumb their nose at the law.
You filed the right paperwork for an EU 261 claim, and you could have also appealed Delta’s denial to German aviation authorities, specifically the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt.
But it turns out you were more interested in getting some compensation, as opposed to the legally required compensation. That’s understandable.
When I asked Delta to review your case, it stuck to its original position. “This delay was out of our control because there was no way we could have known our pilot would become too ill to work and it isn’t feasible to have a spare crew in every city we fly,” a representative said.
That doesn’t align with a previous court ruling, which suggested issues such as crew shortages were indeed within an airline’s control and could not be considered an “extraordinary” circumstance. Having an extraordinary circumstance means no compensation is due. I can’t force Delta to see things my way; the only way to fix this is by taking the airline to court. In Europe. That’s something Delta knows you won’t do.
That’s the bad news.
The good news?
“We should have paid for your hotel and meals when you had to stay an additional day in Frankfurt,” says Delta.
Under EU 261 — the part Delta is choosing to follow, at least — when a flight is canceled or delayed over five hours, passengers should be confirmed on the next available flight. Depending on the length of a passenger’s delay, airlines are required to provide care and assistance as follows:
- Meals and refreshments according to the wait time.
- Hotel accommodations if necessary.
- Transportation to and from the hotel.
- Two forms of communication i.e. telephone, fax, or email.
Delta agreed to cover your lodging and meal expenses, a resolution you were happy with.
Update: Tanis adds the following.
I never asked for compensation from Delta for meals and accommodations since Delta provided all of that to everyone booked on that flight once it was canceled. What I did ask for was compensation according to EU 261. What my husband and I ended up getting from Delta were “bonus” frequent flier miles credited to our SkyMiles accounts, but there was no monetary compensation from Delta.
Thank you for the update.