If you’re flying to and from anywhere in the European Union, you are protected by EU 261. EU 261 is a regulation that offers protection to air travelers, who have been affected by delays and cancellations. The protection is offered in the form of monetary compensation for cancellations and delays that last 3 hours or more.
However, this does not apply to delays and cancellations that have been caused by extraordinary circumstances. These are circumstances that are beyond the control of the airline or the airport, such as air strikes or bad weather.
Even so, the actual definition of extraordinary circumstances still remains unclear, which, experts claim, is a loophole. This loophole has been exploited by many airlines even when the delay or cancellation has not been caused by extraordinary circumstances.
The Latest Example
Aer Lingus is one of the airlines that’s currently being suspected of exploiting this loophole. According to passenger Jonathan Loughran, his Aer Lingus flight from LA to Dublin had been delayed due to a luggage loading vehicle colliding with the aircraft. The delay is said to have lasted longer than 3 hours.
Loughran believes that he and his family are now entitled to compensation as a result. However, Aer Lingus denied the compensation, calling the accident an extraordinary event.
However, as far as EU 261 is concerned, such issues are included under the extraordinary circumstances clause. In fact, the EU had even issued a rule in the past clearly stating that mobile stairs colliding with air carriers could not be placed under the extraordinary circumstances clause. Naturally, this is applicable to luggage loading vehicles as well.
Loughran sent in his claim, which was only denied by the airline after 40 days. When he wrote to Aer Lingus demanding an explanation, that too was denied. He even filed a complaint with the Commission for Aviation Regulation, which is the national enforcement agency in Ireland for EU 261.
However, national enforcement agencies have their hands tied up due to protocol. They cannot compensate passengers for delays or cancellations. Instead, they can only demand the airline to offer up an explanation for the denial of claims. If, and only if, those reasons fail to “pass the test”, the national enforcement agency is permitted to take the next step, which is to sanction the airline. Loughran is yet to hear anything from the agency.