Flight Compensation Under EC261 in Europe – What If The Airline Lies?
I couldn’t help but laugh at Shawn’s post about Hyatt telling him that he didn’t show up at the hotel and actually stay there. The same day that story went up, I had an equally wacky experience via email from Iberia. Flight compensation under EC261 is a very traveler-friendly policy. Under this 2004 law in the European Union, you have more rights to compensation when things go wrong. However, that’s only if the airline agrees to be honest and doesn’t lie. Iberia is playing the ‘fake news’ game with me to deny my claim.
What is EC261?
EC261 is a 2004 law in the European Union that gives you the right to compensation or reimbursement. It covers things like missed connections, long delays, or even being denied boarding when the flight is overbooked. The law applies when the following conditions are met:
- departing from an airport in a member country
- departing from an EU/EEA member state, or
- traveling to an EU/EEA country on an airline based in an EU/EEA member country
- you arrived on time for check-in and have a confirmed reservation
- OR you were transferred from an earlier flight
Notably, it doesn’t apply if you’re flying on a free or discounted ticket not available to the ticket (but this doesn’t mean award tickets, so we’re OK on those).
What Happened On My Flight?
On December 22, I had 2 separate tickets with a self-transfer in Madrid. I flew Iberia from Algiers, Algeria to Madrid, Spain. Then, I had a RyanAir flight from Madrid to Dublin, Ireland. With 2+ hours of connection, I didn’t worry about changing terminals/timing. Unfortunately, due to strong winds at Madrid, planes were told to circle and wait for landing permission.
Our pilot said we didn’t have enough fuel, so we went to Valencia, Spain to wait it out and get fuel. We arrived in Madrid more than 2 hours late. I watched my RyanAir flight pass us during the descent. I posted before about how positioning flights can backfire, but I felt good on this similar setup because of flight compensation under EC261 if anything went wrong.
Once I arrived in Madrid and went to check-in at RyanAir, they told me they wouldn’t honor my earlier ticket. Because they’re a discount airline and don’t have cancelations/changes for no-shows on a flight that departed on time, I had to buy a new ticket.
Iberia Denies It All
2 days after the incident, I contacted Iberia on Twitter. They gave me a link for how to submit a claim for flight compensation under EC261. I submitted boarding passes, a write-up of the events, landing times, my purchase receipt, and everything. Iberia received everything you’d need, as long as you accept that reality is reality.
I got an automated response that someone would contact me in 4-6 weeks. That seems unnecessary, but OK. After a month had gone by, I contacted Iberia on Twitter again via direct message, asking for an update. After a week without a reply from them, I sent a public tweet. Funny enough, 3 passenger rights organizations retweeted it, and then Iberia replied to my direct message. They said they’d ask someone to reply to me soon but to just be patient/keep waiting.
True to form, a full 6 weeks after submitting my claim, Iberia claims nothing happened. There was no flight delay, I made it up!
Thank you for your notification regarding flight IB8805 on 22/12/2019.
I have checked in our records the information regarding the flight mentioned and we have no record about any incident.
Iberia Customer Services
How Do You Prove a Flight Was Delayed When The Airline Says It Wasn’t?
How do you prove the flight arrived late? I don’t have access to time logs from the aircraft. I can’t find historical data from the Madrid airport. However, I submitted the only thing I do have: time stamped messages updating my wife via WhatsApp.
There’s obviously a full conversation, but that’s the only thing I have at this point “proving” the flight was delayed. Iberia acknowledged the right date and flight number but gave a full “no it didn’t” response to saying the flight arrived late.
I shouldn’t be surprised about this. Considering a company took a full 6 weeks to send a response, I can’t be super surprised that it’s nonsense. I also see tons of complaints online about how poorly Iberia handles issues like this, so I’m not alone. What’s next? I might need to contact the Madrid airport itself, if Iberia responds with another round of ‘fake news’ to my saying the flight was delayed and made me miss my connection. At least they didn’t try to say I wasn’t on the plane.
I wasn’t aware that you could get a free trial from FlightRadar24 and get historical data for the past 90 days. Now I’ve got proof! Thanks to people who pointed this out.