Any recompense for obscenely delayed international flights?
November 1, 2006 9:58 PM   Subscribe

Is there any recompense for an obscenely delayed international flight?

I'm currently sitting at LAX waiting around for a broke plane to be fixed, 4.5 hours after my Northwest/KLM flight to Amsterdam was supposed to leave. It's scheduled to leave no later than 2 hours from now. Assuming the best, I will be almost 7 hours delayed, getting into Amsterdam in the late evening instead of early afternoon, destroying any possibility of business or sight-seeing. I'm pissed and trapped in a dingy sorta-mall of an airport terminal.

Is there any way that NWA/KLM is financially liable for one of their flights being so egregiously late?
posted by todbot to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Doubtful. If you had a quick flight / return scheduled, i.e., were going only for a day or two, you might be able to get a refund on the flight if you decide not to take it, but if you take the flight, the chances of getting anything back are low, and would almost definitely be up to the discression of NWA.
posted by JakeWalker at 10:00 PM on November 1, 2006

So are you just going to lose a day there, or does this make the trip pointless? If the latter, you could declare the trip in vain because they can't get you there, and get a refund.

For full details of what you're owed, check the carrier's contract of carriage.
posted by raf at 10:06 PM on November 1, 2006

See this tread, particularly this link.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:06 PM on November 1, 2006

If you have some time on your hands, you can read the contract of carriage.

The executive summary is that NWA only agrees to get you from point A to point B and doesnt guarantee you will get there at any specific time.
posted by vacapinta at 10:10 PM on November 1, 2006

Response by poster: Pollomacho: Heh. Though that 2nd link is somewhat relevant. I just wish the answer wasn't "go complain to the airline rep" because right now there's a huge crowd around her and she's about ready to crack.
raf & vacapinta: I'll pour over the NWA/KLM's 116-page ALLCAPS contract of carriage, but yeah looks like I'm screwed.
I guess I just want something right now to quench my frustration.
posted by todbot at 10:22 PM on November 1, 2006

My one experience with NWA resulted in a full day's flight delay. They gave me a food voucher, a phone card for $10, and a handful of WorldPerks points, which I don't use. As a travel agent, I found them to be one of the less helpful Big Six airlines when it came to flight delays and recompense.


Check out Rule 240, it may be of assistance to you depending on the circumstances. I don't quite know how well it applies to KLM, as they're a Dutch carrier, but since they are owned by NWA, a domestic carrier, it may still carry some weight.
posted by angeline at 10:23 PM on November 1, 2006

angeline has it. Search for "240" in the carriage contract (I linked above) and you get to the relevant section. The summary is still: you're screwed
posted by vacapinta at 10:34 PM on November 1, 2006

Just want to make sure you see from that second link:

Delays and Cancellations for European Union Related Flights
Unlike the U.S., the European Union (EU) does provide for compensation for flight delays and cancellations. In most, but not all, cases involving a delay or cancellation of a flight, a passenger is entitled to compensation under European Parliament Regulation (EC) 261/2004 for delayed and cancelled flights. There are three levels of compensation:

- in the event of long delays (two hours or more, depending on the distance of the flight), passengers must in every case be offered free meals and refreshments plus two free telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or emails;
- if the time of departure is deferred until the next day, passengers must also be offered hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the place of accommodation;
- when the delay is five hours or longer, passengers may opt for reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure.

This regulation applies to all airline flights departing from an EU airport or to any airline licensed in the EU if that flight is departing from an airport outside the EU to a destination at an airport in an EU member state.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:45 PM on November 1, 2006

Aren't they offering any compensation at all? Almost always when I've had a delay in excess of two hours, I've been entitled to something, most recently a five pound food voucher (can't purcahse much with that, but that's beside the point).

I was in Accra, Ghana, about two years ago about to board a flight back to London when the President pulled up in snazzy limo, military escort and all.

BA kicked us all off and let the President have the entire 747 for him and his entourage. They put us up in a hotel, paid for meals, gave us some ff miles (can't recall how many), and because I wrote a letter complaining (I had a damn boarding pass and was in the queue!!) later I got 600 pounds compensation. I think we got cash only because we were stuck in Ghaha for a few days as there aren't that many flights in & out.

Seems like you'll have to make some noise, but please be nice to the folks at the desk. Just make sure they know you're unhappy and take your details. Later you should write a letter.

FWIW, I got back from Amsterdam last night, and yesterday it was really cold and rainy; if you haven't packed any winter weather gear I'd visit a duty free shops before boarding.

Best of luck!
posted by Mutant at 11:24 PM on November 1, 2006

"but since they are owned by NWA, a domestic carrier"

This is incorrect. Northwest Airlines does not own KLM. They merely have a codesharing agreement in place. In fact, KLM actually owns 20% of Northwest Airlines.

And as of May 18th 2006, NWA's "rule 240" says... you're hosed. "FAILURE TO OPERATE ON SCHEDULE

It goes on to say that they might be able to get you a similar class ticket on another airline that they have agreements with, if one is available.

You're probably better off waiting around. These days, you'd have a better chance of having Northwest Airlines delivering you a pizza.
posted by drstein at 11:35 PM on November 1, 2006

Oh yeah. Not too long ago, I handled a mid air emergency medical situation on a Northwest Airlines flight. (I'm an EMT)

I got a coupon for either a)500 free miles, b)an airport meal (up to $10) OR an on-board snack pack, or c)an in-flight cocktail beverage.
The coupon is sitting here on my desk. I'm taking the miles. ;)

My point? Airlines don't like to cough up free stuff anymore.
posted by drstein at 11:38 PM on November 1, 2006

The EU regulations Pollomacho describes do apply to you as you're flying an EU-registered carrier (KLM) and your destination is an EU state.

A PDF you should go print in the airport business center and wave in the face of the airline reps (from the Euromouth of Brussels itself!) detailing your rights is detailed here; here's the HTML version. Pollomacho's got the compensation right.

If you want anything, it says "complain immediately."
posted by mdonley at 3:03 AM on November 2, 2006

Since they conveniently provide the COC in word format, you could change it to say whatever you want, find a printer, and waive your copy in front of the gate agent. ;)
posted by gregoryc at 4:11 AM on November 2, 2006

Is it bad that I don't even consider 7 hours "obscenely delayed" for an international flight at this point?!
posted by Amizu at 6:07 AM on November 2, 2006

Pollomacho is quite right - the EU enforces an impressive mandatory compensation for travellers into and out of EU countries on EU airlines. Compared with this, the standard U.S. conditions of carriage are medieval. Demand your free meal!
posted by meehawl at 6:34 AM on November 2, 2006

What Amizu said. My NWA flight from L.A. to Japan was delayed a full day (to swap out an engine, yay!) and I didn't consider that obscene. They put me up at a hotel with free meals and a coupon for a discount on my next NWA flght, but I haven't flown with them since then.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:51 AM on November 2, 2006

7 hours, pshaw! I spent 7 hours in the plane on the tarmac once after a two hour delay at the gate and before returning us to the gate for deplaning and 10 further hours of delay. That was obscene. That was united and I received nothing.
posted by jmgorman at 7:35 AM on November 2, 2006

offtopic but...

jmgorman .... i would go insane and probably be in jail if that happened to me. they better take me back to the terminal way before 7 hours or i would be on my cell phone calling local media and national media letting them know i was being held hostage against my will.

if that didn't work, i'd feign medical conditions or whatever it takes. no way would i ever sit on a plane that's not moving for 7 hours.
posted by thilmony at 8:29 AM on November 2, 2006

Being stuck in the airport sucks, yes, but wouldn't you rather they take the time to fix the plane properly before you leave? Maybe if you try to reframe it somehow, it will help make you feel better. And I hope you're well on your way by now.
posted by Addlepated at 9:02 AM on November 2, 2006

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