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Five major airlines face enforcement action for denying passengers compensation for delayed flights


American Airlines, Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines all face action from the Civil Aviation Authority, following the regulator’s review of airline policies for paying compensation.
Vueling also faces CAA action for its approach to providing passengers care and assistance during disruption.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has today launched enforcement action against five major airlines for denying passengers the compensation they are legally entitled to for delayed flights.
American Airlines, Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines all face enforcement action, after a CAA review found each of the airlines to be breaching consumer law. The airlines confirmed to the CAA they do not pay compensation to passengers who had experienced a delay on the first leg of a flight that caused them to miss a connecting flight and, as a result, to arrive at their final destination over three hours late (Singapore Airlines currently places compensation claims for these delays on hold). The airlines’ refusal to pay compensation in these instances fails to meet the legal passenger rights requirements for flight disruption*.
Under European rules, passengers are legally entitled to compensation if they arrive at the final destination of their journey more than three hours late – including if booked on a connecting flight – unless the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances. These rights apply to any flight departing an EU airport, regardless of the nationality of the airline. This is an important issue for passengers – the CAA estimates that over 200,000 passengers each year travelling on these airlines could be at risk of missing their onward connection and thereby being delayed by over three hours at their final destination.
The CAA’s own complaint data shows that the most complained about airline for non-payment of compensation for connecting flights was Emirates. While Turkish Airlines has given their passengers access to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service, which is designed to ensure they can get quick, independent and binding decisions on their disputes with the airline, none of the other airlines facing enforcement action have joined ADR services. The regulator is therefore calling on these and all other airlines not using ADR to commit to giving their passengers access to these complaint services as soon as possible.
Richard Moriarty, Director of Consumers and Markets at the CAA, said:
“Any disruption to a flight is frustrating for passengers, but delays that cause people to miss connecting flights have a particularly damaging effect on people’s travel plans. That’s why there are clear laws in place to make sure passengers that experience this type of disruption are looked after by their airline and compensated when the disruption was in the airline’s control.
“Airlines’ first responsibility should be looking after their passengers, not finding ways in which they can prevent passengers upholding their rights. So it’s disappointing to see a small number of airlines continuing to let a number of their passengers down by refusing to pay them the compensation they are entitled to. Where we see evidence of passengers systematically being denied their rights, we will not hesitate to take the necessary action to ensure airlines change their policies and their customers get the assistance they are entitled to.”
The CAA’s enforcement action follows a comprehensive review of airline policies for supporting passengers experiencing disruption. The review looked at the different policies of the top 31 airlines operating in the UK, focusing on four areas: care and assistance during disruption; compensation for missed connections; denied boarding (when passengers are “bumped” from flights); and downgrading (when passengers are downgraded to a lower seat class).
The CAA has also started enforcement action against Vueling for failing to comply with the minimum standards for care and assistance – including a lack of clear oversight to check passengers are being looked after within the requirements of the law.
On downgrading, the CAA required a number of airlines to amend their policies during the course of the review. We also worked with a number of airlines to ensure that those who offer the choice of a voucher for free travel in cases of downgrading or denied boarding make it clear to consumers that they can choose to have cash. These issues were resolved without the need for enforcement action.


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