Have you used a "flight claim" service successfully?
August 2, 2018 7:09 AM   Subscribe

A few weeks ago my flight got cancelled and I had to stay overnight as it was one of the last flights out of the airport and they could not get me (or really anyone else on my flight) onto something else. I used a template email that I found online to claim compensation per EU law. I've just received a rejection for my claim citing "extraordinary circumstances". I'm still pissed off about it. Is it worth using one of those flight claim services where they escalate on your behalf? They say there is no fees involved (apart from what I assume is a percentage of whatever they are able to get) but I'm wary about stuff like this.

The flight was with Alitalia (a shitty, budget airline, would not recommend to anyone) from Linate to London City. Per the airline's response to me, it was cancelled because of "air traffic control restrictions at London City airport, due to heavy air traffic congestion in London area." which they deem as an "extraordinary circumstance" which "could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken".

Some things about this flight that extraordinarily piss me off:
- There was no one at the desk to help passengers at all. In fact, I found out that it was cancelled because I overheard another passenger remark that and then I confirmed it via Google, because the status screens still ostensibly stated it was merely delayed.
- Discussion with other passengers reveal that this frequently happens to this particular flight into London City. This airport has an earlier closing time than compared to say Gatwick or Heathrow so their last flights in must occur earlier. The upshot of this is that Alitalia cuts it close with their last flights into London City because a delay of even just 1 hour will mean it's cancelled.
- I did a little bit of digging and my particular flight has had an 8% cancellation rate and only 70% of the flights depart on time overall in the last month (I couldn't find older historical data). In comparison to two other Alitalia flights into London city which have 0% cancellation rates in the same month. Given this performance history I think they should have anticipated this cancellation with better contingency planning or not offer this stupid flight option to passengers in the first place. They've made me an unwilling participant in their crazy betting scheme where only 70% of their flights makes it to its destination on time.
- Their staff was extremely unhelpful and extremely slow in assisting us, processing us and finding us accommodations. When I got to the hotel, the hotel staff had no idea what I was supposed to do or how I was supposed to get to the airport the next morning and no airline staff around at all.

Okay that's a bit of ranting and background info but my real question is, should I let this go or take a punt with one of these "free" flight claim services? Given the mileage involved the maximum amount I could claim is €250, which yes, isn't that much in the grand scheme of things but now it's about the principle dammit.
posted by like_neon to Law & Government (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The people to ask are the Alitalia frequent flyers on Flyertalk. The folks on the British Airways section of the site have compiled this helpful page for EU 261 claims for BA flyers but much the same will apply to anyone flying any EU route.
posted by mdonley at 7:44 AM on August 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

Respectfully, I wouldn't take non-Europeans' advice on this unless they are regular travelers into Europe (which the FT people will generally be). I find that most Americans in particular, due to our being beaten down constantly by the airlines, struggle to get our minds around the EU 261 model and the core assumption that the airlines are supposed to do their darned jobs. As far as I know (but I could be wrong), there isn't a reported case one way or another concerning ATC restrictions...which means there's no reason not to make the request.
posted by praemunire at 8:30 AM on August 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

My concern would be that the 3rd party claim companies that pay for loads of Google ads seem a bit scammy and you may end up owing them money (https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/aug/28/help-claim-flight-delay-beware-small-print-compensation).
See if the airline is part of an arbitration group or alternatively small claims court is cheap and easy - can file online and given the value levels they're unlikely to want the expense of defending.
posted by JonB at 8:47 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

I used AirHelp after having a delay with British Airways. They successfully got me compensation from the airline, though taking a fairly hefty percentage (20-25%, if I remember correctly.) Still, if you're not sure whether you've done everything correctly, it could be a worthwhile option.
posted by Vhanudux at 10:04 AM on August 2, 2018

I'd be infuriated, too. If this happens that frequently, the circumstances are hardly extraordinary. And Alitalia failed in other ways, per its own policy:

We are aware that delays and cancellations can interfere with your travel plans, and we are very sorry when this happens, therefore we will do our best to limit any inconvenience... This is why we will keep you informed by providing real-time updates via our app, the Info Voli tool, text and email... If, on the other hand, the delay means that an overnight stay is necessary, we will find you a hotel and take care of your transfer to the airport to the hotel and vice versa, as well as meals.

You learned of the cancellation from other passengers, staff was inept, and you were in the dark about how you'd return to the airport. Perhaps you could push harder with Alitalia over these matters before using a service to pursue under EC 261. Seconding the dedicated flyertalk forum.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:25 AM on August 2, 2018

I have successfully used Air Help. It was worth it to me - the alternative was my not bothering to do anything so it seemed okay to give them a cut of the compensation.
posted by cessair at 11:48 AM on August 2, 2018

I'm normally someone who will do things myself to save money, but after my flight was delayed I decided I didn't have the time to read through the various guides, follow the instructions to the letter and ultimately take the case to small claims court if they pushed back. So I looked around at people's experiences with the various solicitors who offer a no-win, no-fee service and the most reputable and popular seemed to be Bott and Co. They've won several of the landmark cases that the other 3rd party claim companies rely on to make their cases.

They did take the usual big chunk of my award as fees, but I had to do almost nothing other than fill in an initial form. Bott & Co went so far as to set a court date, but in the end the airline backed down and I got a decent chunk of money plus the satisfaction that I hadn't let them get away with it.

I've had people tell me that they've had success without using a third party, but (a) the airline only folded the day before the court date and I would have had to have been ready to go to court myself if I'd gone the DIY route (b) I was prepared to trade the maximum financial return (by handling my own case) in exchange for the maximum chance of winning (by using experienced solicitors).
posted by Busy Old Fool at 3:07 AM on August 3, 2018

« Older Novels and Mysteries to Read on a Trip to Mexico   |   Specific plant recommendation for USDA Zone 9a Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.