TRAVEL CLINIC

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - TRAVEL - SI­MONCALDER’S SR

Ques­tion:

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?

An­swer:

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.

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