My daughter recently booked to fly to Ekaterinburg in Russia for the first part of her student year abroad.
After we arrived at Heathrow (right) the first flight was cancelled. We queued up for a couple of hours to rearrange the trip for the following morning.
The airline said she could stay in a local hotel if she wanted, but we chose to take my daughter home and to return to Heathrow the next day, when she was able to finally leave.
Some days later, I wrote to the airline on my daughter’s behalf and requested payment of €400 (£355) under EU Regulation 261/2004.
My claim has since been rejected because the flight was cancelled due to unforeseen technical malfunction.
Where do we stand?
You should remind the airline of the Interpretative Guidelines issued by the European Union on the entitlement to compensation under the passengers’ rights rules.
For flights from EU airports, the only defence for not paying out is “extraordinary circumstances”. And even though that is a fairly vague term, the European courts have gradually refined its meaning.
In the case of a technical issue, the defence must meet two cumulative conditions: first, the problem must not be inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned; second, it is beyond the actual control of that carrier.
An equipment failure leading to the cancellation of a flight is an unexpected event, but “is inherent in the normal exercise of the air carrier’s activity”, according to the authorities, who point out: “No component of an aircraft lasts forever”. Only if there is a hidden manufacturing defect, which is a difficult defence to sustain, can your daughter’s claim be rejected.
So, I suggest you contact the airline again and remind it of the rules. If the airline refuses for a second time, then you can demand, free of charge, proof such as extracts from log books, or incident reports. But I imagine that, once you make it clear that you know your rights and will continue to challenge, the airline will capitulate and send the cash.