Travelers are losing more and more legal battles with the big airlines and it’s time to be told why

airline aviation travel compensation delays cancellations – Getty

This summer we have seen more airport delays and more flight cancellations than ever. Yet – according to which one? Travel: Success rates for passengers defying airlines that refuse to pay compensation are less than half what they were five years ago. What the hell is going on and the system still works in the interest of the passengers?

There is a fundamental weakness in the EU flight delay and cancellation compensation directive, which became part of UK law in 2005. The rules promise a lot in theory: typically hundreds of pounds in compensation for a delay significant and also stringent requirements for alternative travel arrangements for when flights are canceled. But in practice, it was often a struggle for passengers to get their due payment. The rules are confusing even for a layman, because they do not apply to all delays and cancellations, but only to those that are attributable to the airline.

Airlines were so unhappy with the directive when it was first introduced, it took years of media pressure and court cases to set precedents and force them, kicking and screaming, to start paying. In the meantime, an entire claims industry has been spawned, promising to fight for your compensation, albeit of course only in exchange for a share of it.

Then in 2016 there was a new development that seemed to offer sensible help to consumers and avoid the hassle and expense of having to use the only other alternative to take the battle to the airlines, the Small Claims Court. The CAA has authorized two private award systems – AviationADR and CEDR – to assess and rule on disputes, including claims for compensation, between airlines and passengers. Both are funded mainly by the airlines themselves, although the CEDR charges passengers £ 25 if their claim is “completely unsuccessful”. Airlines are free to choose which scheme to use: most opt ​​for AviationADR, but BA and SAS use CEDR. (Neither scheme is mandatory, and some airlines, such as Jet2, Emirates, and Norwegian do not participate at all.)

But which? This week’s trips have raised questions about how the programs work. He dug into the statistics and found that the percentage of cases judged by AviationADR that ruled in favor of the consumer dropped from 71% in 2017 to just 24% last year. The most recent figure for so far in 2022 is 33%. This compares with CEDR’s passenger success rate of 60% in the last quarter of this year, only slightly lower than 2017 figures.

We need to be a little careful not to jump to conclusions about these figures. The difference between the two schemes could, for example, be due to the fact that the two airlines using the CEDR treat passenger complaints more severely. Or maybe the £ 25 commission with this scheme means that only those with stronger credits are using the service.

However, the declining rate of passenger success is worrying. A rate of 33 percent so far this year, when there have been so many delays and cancellations, seems – at first glance – very low. And it’s not even clear why it’s declining over the long term. The AAC said it is not worried about the numbers and says that it “could be due to many different factors”. AviationADR has not yet responded to my question about falling rates, but told Which? that, when its decisions were previously challenged, it has occasionally submitted some of the questions to independent legal experts for review. “On all occasions, we received confirmation that our decisions were detailed and correct,” she said.

But which? remains concerned about changes in success rates and believes it is wrong for airlines to be free to subscribe to the ADR scheme of their choice. The publisher, Guy Hobbs, calls for a single mandatory scheme, “to ensure traveler complaints can be handled quickly and fairly when problems arise and put an end to the compensation limbo.”

Of course, we need an answer as to why passengers who dare to challenge the big airlines are losing far more often than they were. If this troubled directive is ever going to work, it must be applied effectively.

Have you had bad experiences with the big airlines? Tell us about them in the comments section below

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