This research comes following the weekend of disruption for British Airways, which saw an IT system failure for the airline cause grounded flights from Gatwick and Heathrow and led to cancellations and delays for over 75,000 passengers.
Travelzoo’s ‘Understanding Air Passenger Rights’ survey reveals the majority of Britons (82%) either have no idea or only have a rough understanding about their passenger rights if they are bumped off a flight.
British travellers feel it’s hard to understand what their rights are and think passenger rights should be clearer.
If you have booked a flight that departed from Europe or are flying with a European airline, you’re entitled to a full refund if your flight is cancelled, unless this is due to extraordinary circumstances. However, only two fifths (43%) of UK consumers are aware of this.
74% of respondents don’t realise that they don’t have to take a flight that has been delayed by more than five hours and that the airline legally has to give booked passengers a full refund, as well as food and drink and overnight accommodation in some cases.
Adding to this, 36% of Britons believe different airlines within Europe offer different compensation for affected travel. In reality, the same passenger compensation rights apply to all inbound and outbound flights within the EU, as outlined in Regulation (EC) No 261/2004.
This research follows on from news stories about passengers being forced off of airlines due to overbooking. As a result of recent incidents, 37% of respondents say the situation has got out of control and that airlines should be held accountable.
However, it’s worth noting that airlines do legally have the right to deny boarding for passengers. When a flight is overbooked, an airline must first call for volunteers who are willing to give up their reservation for the flight. If there are not enough volunteers, then an airline will be forced to deny boarding to passengers against their will – only 36% of UK travellers know these rules around overbooking.
Richard Singer, president of Travelzoo Europe said: “There is clearly a lack of understanding of passenger rights when flying. While the information is available, it’s hard to find, complicated to understand, and even more difficult to submit a claim. Those entitled to compensation are either unaware that they are or don’t bother trying to claim because they perceive the process as being too much hassle.”
Airlines are currently facing numerous challenges including the complication of a possible laptop ban which would affect travel from the UK to the US. Currently passengers are restricted from taking laptops, tablets and e-readers over 16cm long onto flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Tunisia, instead having to put them in the hold.
This, along with other circumstances out of their control, such as delays and cancellations, means it’s important that consumers know their rights, but also that they are aware of the rights an airline has too.
Singer believes the current confusion around passenger rights poses an ideal opportunity for airlines to gain trust from British tourists.
Singer said: “While clearer information about regulations is required, there is also the chance to be proactive in helping customers claim their rightful compensation. By implementing a system where passengers who are entitled to a claim are automatically notified, airlines stand to reap the benefits of customer loyalty through turning an unavoidable situation of disrupted travel into something that distinguishes them from others.”
The following explains what compensation passengers are entitled to according to EC Regulation 261/2004, sourced from Air Passenger Rights:
When does my flight fall under the EC Regulation 261/2004?
If your flight is within the EU and is operated either by an EU or a non-EU airline
If your flight arrives in the EU from outside the EU and is operated by an EU airline
If your flight departs from the EU to a non-EU country operated by an EU or a non-EU airline
For what incidents are you entitled to compensation?
The airline must give you a written notice setting out the rules for compensation and assistance if:
You were denied boarding
Your flight was cancelled
You experienced a delay of more than two hours at departure or arrival
What financial compensation am I entitled to?
This is determined by the distance of the flight in combination with the ultimate arrival delay as a result of the incident.
250€ for all flights of 1,500 kilometres or less
400€ for all flights between member states of the European Union of more than 1,500 kilometres and for all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres
600€ for all other flights