Flight compensation – delayed, canceled, baggage [DOCUMENT SAMPLES]

Safely and on time! This is the best way to fly!

For the impatient

The amount of compensation for a delayed flight (minimum 3 hours) depends on the length of the flight:
– flights up to 1500 km: compensation 250 EUR
– flights within the EU longer than 1500 km and other flights between 1500 and 3500 km: compensation 400 EUR
– all other flights: 600 EUR

Real life example

Flights are an integral part of travel. So far, during several years of intensive travel, I have been lucky and arrived everywhere without major delays. The first unpleasant surprise came last year, during a flight from Berlin to Malta. We experienced a delay of almost 4 hours. It was even worse on the way back from Malta. One engine in the plane went out and we had to make an emergency landing immediately. There were nerves, a long stay at an emergency airport, an unplanned overnight stay in a hotel and a return the next day on another plane provided by the airline.
The trip to Malta gave me reasons to apply for compensation from the airlines. I decided it was a good time to test the whole process for myself and share my experiences.

Rules and amounts of compensation

Compensation for a delayed or canceled flight

There are plenty of websites on the Internet where you can check compensation rules. In the European Union, the source documents are:

- Regulation (EC) 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council

- Judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the case of Sturgeon v. Condor Flugdienst GmbH of November 2009 (reference number C-402/07)

Here I will collect the key rules in force and describe them in a few simple words.

You are entitled to compensation if there is a delay of more than 3 hours due to reasons attributable to the airline (usually technical problems).

The amount of compensation depends on the length of the flight:
– flights up to 1500 km: compensation of EUR 250
– flights within the EU longer than 1500 km and other flights between 1500 and 3500 km: compensation of EUR 400
– all other flights: EUR 600

It's the airlines' fault are not:
– bad weather conditions;
– natural disasters;
– strikes by a third party, e.g. airport staff;
– political destabilization
– security threat;
– air traffic control restrictions, e.g. runway closure;
– bird strikes (plane-bird collision);
– hidden manufacturing defects of the aircraft.
If the delay occurs as a result of any of these reasons, you are not entitled to compensation.

It describes all the rules in greater detail and in a very accessible way European Consumer Center website.
By the way, this is an official source of information, so the data is always up to date. The website is really nice, short and clear. If there is a need to check something more carefully, I recommend it.

Compensation for damaged, lost and delayed luggage

Separate rules apply in case of various adventures related to our luggage. You will also find a set of basic information on this topic in the appropriate section of the European Consumer Center website, describing baggage compensation rules.

How to claim compensation for a delayed flight?

There are two basic paths:
– you can try to fight for compensation on your own
– commission (for a fee) a specialist external company to obtain compensation

To collect material for this entry, I decided to first try to claim compensation on my own. It was an ordeal to get out of it, but in the name of collecting experience for the article, I decided to persistently pursue it.
However, if the attempt at independent investigation failed, I had pre-selected two companies that deal with this type of cases. One from Poland and the other operating globally and with support in many languages.

Below you will find a very abbreviated record of my adventures. I will not describe all the intricacies, actions and torments I went through, because it is not an adventure novel, but a guide. However, I will try to convey the essence of difficulties and surprises that you must be prepared for when deciding on one or the other variant of solving the case.

Seek compensation independently

I admit that I'm terribly tempted to complain about the airlines because they ruined so much of my April, but I'm going to try my best to refrain from doing so. I give you my word that I will refrain from unnecessary defeatism and will only include in the test what is necessary.

Flight compensation – DOCUMENT TEMPLATES to download

The first problem appears before you even write your first sentence. When I sat down at the computer, I realized that I didn't even know:
– what form should the complaint take?
– what information should it contain?
– do I need to attach any documents? If so, what?
– and finally, in what language should I write it?

Before I wrote anything at all, I had to look for answers to my doubts. While working on my own complaint, I came to the conclusion that it would be useful to create templates of complaint letters, which could greatly facilitate the first steps in the case. While creating the templates of the letters, I realized that the letters themselves contain a set of answers to the above questions. Before you start writing a complaint letter, be sure to familiarize yourself with the templates of complaint texts. Just analyzing the patterns themselves will give you answers to almost all your questions. Official text templates to be used in complaint documents are available on the website European Consumer Center. These are raw texts, not yet arranged in the format of an official letter. I copied them and created a template for a ready-made complaint letter, which you can download from the links below.
The files are saved in a universal RTF format that can be opened in virtually any text editor. Some editors (e.g. Word) block the ability to modify files downloaded from the Internet by default for security reasons. Then, a message and a button that unlocks the ability to edit the text will appear in the upper part of the editor window.

– complaint template – letter for compensation for a delayed flight (Polish language)

– complaint template – letter for compensation for delayed flight (English)

Both writings are constructed in such a way that they are an exact reflection of each other but in two different languages. If you do not speak English and want to know what is in the text, download the Polish version, which is an exact mirror image of the English version.
Comments or places where you should enter your own data are marked in red in both letters. Before sending the letter, remove all red text fragments and enter your own data in the appropriate places. There should be no red fragments left in the final version of your writing.

You can prepare a complaint to Polish carriers in Polish. Prepare a complaint in English for all other carriers.

Where to send a complaint?

The question seems trivial at first glance and should have a simple answer. In general, the answer is simple, because the complaint should be sent to the e-mail address designated for filing complaints or via the complaint contact form available on the airline's website. Well, first of all, what is the address or where is this form?
While larger and well-known airlines publish this information in places that are relatively easy to find on their website, in my case searching the Malta Air website took several days. For several days, I patiently combed through subsequent subpages on the Malta Air website, learning about many of the carrier's broad descriptions of my rights, but there was no trace of an appropriate contact form or e-mail address for complaints. We can assume that I'm a geek and someone else would have found this information earlier and faster, but in my private opinion, access to it should be more intuitive.
Eventually, I succeeded and on one of the many subpages I found a tiny note with the address: customercare.airmalta@airmalta.com Phew… what a relief! We have it!

I have completed the correspondence, i.e.: a cover letter, scans of tickets and booking confirmations, scans of boarding passes and scans of additional expenses that I had to incur due to the situation (purchase of meals and additional fees for parking the car in a paid parking lot at the airport extended by one day) and I sent an e-mail to the address provided.

What next after sending a complaint?

When sending my complaint e-mail, I selected the option so that when the airline opens the e-mail, the machine will send me an electronic confirmation that the message has been received. Unfortunately, the servers on the airline's side probably have the option not to send automatic confirmations checked, so I didn't receive any response.
Fortunately, the e-mail I sent was not returned to me, which meant that the target e-mail address was correct and the e-mail was sent to my inbox. From now on, all that was left to do was wait.

Looking at the matter from the point of view of applicable regulations and deadlines, the airline has 30 days from the date of receipt of the complaint to respond to it. If you receive a response within this time, you must react appropriately depending on its content. If the airline does not respond within 30 days, it means that your complaint can be treated as accepted and accepted without any comments. This is exactly what happened in my case. There was a long silence and I received no response for 30 days. On the one hand, this meant that my complaint was justified and I was entitled to compensation in the requested amount, but on the other hand, I asked myself: what should I do next?
I waited a dozen or so more days and then decided to contact the airline again. Unfortunately, my attempts at contact remained unanswered. Zero. Nothing. Complete silence and no reaction.
After half a year of banging my head against the wall, I realized that as an average person I have no real tools to influence and force any reaction from airlines thousands of kilometers away from me. They may simply not respond to me and that's it.

Airlines don't respond, what next?

Unfortunately, if the airlines do not respond to the submitted complaint, the only options left are legal solutions, which (according to my limited knowledge) basically come down to two sensible courses of action:

- reporting the case to the European equivalent of the Consumer Ombudsman and an attempt to put pressure by this official office, which means further months of fighting (and writing further letters) with the airline and the office that we will have to persuade to act on our behalf

- handing over the case to a professional lawyer, who will lead her to a happy ending for a fee. Of course, with the potential compensation of 2 x EUR 400 (and in my case this amount was at stake), the costs of hiring a lawyer would exceed the value of the entire compensation. However, there is another, much cheaper way to hire a lawyer who knows how to recover compensation from airlines and limit the cost of such assistance to a reasonable level.

At this point, my patience for struggling for compensation on my own was exhausted and I decided to give up writing further letters and setting in motion the official mechanisms of the European Union. I decided that I didn't want to waste any more time or nerves on this and decided to hand the matter over to lawyers.

How to hire a lawyer for little money?

The method is simple and works more or less like a class action lawsuit (that's the simplest way to explain it). Lawyers who specialize in recovering compensation from airlines act on behalf of a large group of people and handle many cases at the same time. As part of our remuneration, we will give them part of our compensation, but only if the money is successfully recovered. We pay nothing until compensation is received.
There are many companies on the market that mediate compensation recovery. I analyzed their offer and limited my choice to two. One is a really large international company, with a huge reach and experience (AirHelp), and the second is a much smaller, but dynamically developing Polish company (AirCashBack). In both companies, communication takes place in Polish, so there is no language barrier when submitting a claim for compensation.
After submitting your application, the panel for monitoring what is currently happening with your application in the case of AirHelp is in English, but telephone and e-mail communication is in Polish.

Why am I pointing to two similar companies?

Because each of them has weaker and stronger sides.

AirHelp – it is powerful (it serves customers in over 20 languages), it operates all over the world and I guess that thanks to its scale they can operate more efficiently, e.g. in the event of a need to obtain compensation from non-European airlines. He charges a slightly higher commission from clients for his services:
– 35% of the compensation value if you avoid going to court
– 50% of the compensation value if a court case is necessary

AirCashBack – it is smaller and provides services only in selected languages ​​(at the time of writing it has services in, for example, German, Italian, French, Portuguese), but it charges slightly lower fees:
– 25% of the compensation value if you avoid going to court
– 39% of the compensation value if a court case is necessary

In practice, if you are entitled to compensation of EUR 250, if you use the AirHelp offer after paying the company's commission, you will receive about PLN 700, and in the case of AirCashBack it will be about PLN 800.

Ordering compensation recovery in practice

As you already know, I decided to hand over the matter of recovering compensation to a specialist company. I had to submit an application and had to choose one of two companies. While I was fighting with Air Malta, I began to receive disturbing information from the media about the airline's serious financial problems, possible bankruptcy, etc. Air Malta's situation was becoming more and more complicated, so I decided to choose the larger of the two companies discussed and submitted my application to AirHelp.

How to submit an application?

The application process for both companies is similar, and you can find links to their websites above. Before you start submitting your application, prepare a set of necessary documents. Without them, you will not be able to complete the next steps when completing the application.

To submit an application you will need:
– a scan, a clear photo or a screenshot of the airline ticket reservation, it can also be an e-ticket that airlines send as a confirmation by e-mail after purchasing airline tickets on their website
– a scan or clear photo of your boarding pass (to prove that you were on board the plane)

When submitting the application, you will be asked to submit a signature, which is needed to establish a power of attorney for the company that will represent you in the case (this is done with a mouse or your finger on a laptop pad). A signature made this way is terribly crooked and even after several attempts it was unlike anything else. Fortunately, you can try many times until the signature takes an acceptable shape.

While submitting the application or after its completion, you will also need to send a signed assignment of receivables (the document is not required when submitting, but must be completed later). The amount of compensation will first be transferred to the account of the company acting on your behalf in the case, and then the company will transfer the amount due to you. The document template is easily available on the company's website.

After completing the application, you will receive confirmation of its submission along with a link to monitor what is currently happening in your case. Now all you have to do is wait for the situation to develop and monitor changes online.

The course of my case

Below I have collected the dates and deadlines on which I performed various activities in my case. This will give you a quick idea of ​​what to expect and prepare for when fighting for compensation.

April 30 2023 – delayed flight on the Berlin-Malta route
This is where it started. Flight delayed by almost 4 hours.

15 May 2023 – I am submitting a claim for compensation to Air Malta
I managed to write and submit the application quickly because I was pressed for time. Then all I had to do was wait. For almost 6 months I have not received any response from Air Malta to any of the messages I have sent to them.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2023 – I apply at AirHelp
After almost 6 months, I decided to take advantage of AirHelp's offer and submitted an application for help in obtaining compensation.

December 8, 2023 – AirHelp submits the application and Air Malta submits the application
After nine days of waiting, during which I completed the documents with the assignment agreement, I received confirmation from AirHelp that they had submitted a request for compensation to Air Malta.

December 14, 2023 – AirHelp sent me information that Air Malta confirmed that it would grant compensation in the amount requested. I was waiting for Air Malta's reaction after AirHelp's intervention only 6 days!!!

My comments

First of all, what is surprising is the lightning-fast reaction of Air Malta in response to the actions of AirHelp acting on my behalf. When, acting as an individual, I could not wait for any response for almost half a year, AirHelp received confirmation of compensation within 6 days.
When registering the application, AirHelp asked me whether I had already performed any activities in this matter myself before submitting the application to them. I confirmed that I did and described the course of events.
Perhaps the fact that my legal request had already received tacit confirmation that it was justified accelerated the whole matter and influenced such a quick course of events at AirHelp. I don't know, but I don't mind if it happened. I probably wouldn't have received any response by now if I continued to act independently as a civilian, so I'm satisfied with the way things are going.

Just because it went so smoothly for me doesn't mean it will be the same for everyone. I read other people's opinions on the Internet and there are a lot of positive opinions, but there are also negative ones. Many people wait longer, sometimes even longer than a year, because not all matters are equally simple and obvious. Some people complain about the fees, others say it was worth paying. How many people, so many opinions.

Positive and negative reviews apply to virtually all companies and there is no company that has only good reviews. Things can get really complicated sometimes, and people are generally impatient and get angry easily.

For this text, I chose two companies that (after analyzing various offers) I would use myself, and in practice, as you can see, I did.
My own case described by me has become a good excuse to take a closer look at this slightly less pleasant side of traveling, and at the same time prepare document templates and make life easier for others by publishing ready-made files for download and useful links to useful information.
However, please remember that I am not an expert in this field. My opinions are in no way binding. I do not know the answers to most of the complexities you will encounter when solving your compensation problems, but I hope that this text will simply make it easier for you to get started and get on with your case faster.

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