You never want it to happen. It’s that feeling when you wake up at 4:00am for your early morning flight… and you have an e-mail saying it’s cancelled. In the United States, you’re basically just out of luck. But in the European Union, you are actually entitled to compensation, even if you’re not an EU citizen! But you’ll have to be your own advocate. The most important thing to remember is do not give up!
To make a long story short, my brother’s and my early morning flight on low-cost Flybe Airlines from Belfast to Edinburgh was cancelled in the middle of the night, with no options for later flights or other transportation. So I had to book us on a ferry, a bus, and a train, totaling eight hours of travel time instead of two. I also needed to buy two meals for the two of us along the way, which I wouldn’t have had to do if not for this unexpected turn of events. My expenses for food and transportation totaled $307.71 USD!
In addition to that, each passenger on that cancelled flight is entitled to 250 Euros in compensation for their flight being delayed or cancelled, according to EU 261. For the two of us, that would be $553.60 USD! Of course, Flybe wasn’t going to tell us that, and they certainly were not going to help. But my husband reminded me of this European law and encouraged me to keep going when I thought it was just too much trouble (which is what they want you to think!). Here’s the process so you can get your own compensation if you are left stranded or unreasonably delayed on any airline flying from or within the EU!
I would like to point out that the $307.71 plus $553.60 equals $861.31. This is in addition to their obligation to fully refund our tickets for the cancelled flights, which they did in the legally required seven business days. Do not leave that kind of money on the table!
1. Know Your Rights
I know, I know. Who wants to read a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo? Well, if you want compensation, you want to read it. Here is the legalese for you to peruse for yourself. And here is a snippet:
2. Keep Your Receipts
This is vital: keep those receipts for flights, food, ferries, trains, rental cars, gas, and absolutely every expense that you incur because of your cancelled flight. If I hadn’t saved all those receipts, Flybe likely would have denied my claim for that extra $307.71 USD!
Didn’t save the paper receipt? If you paid with a credit or debit card, the charges should be on your statement. They will not be itemized, but you should be able to show the business name, date, and amount.
3. File Your Claim
It took a lot of searching and a lot of clicking to find the right link, so save yourself some trouble if you’re looking for the Flybe link and click here for the online form! If your delay or cancellation occurred with another airline, search for things like “[airline] EU 261 Compensation” or “[airline] EU 261 form,” and the like. Once you find the correct form, fill it out to the best of your ability. You will need:
- The date the delay or cancellation occurred
- The flight number
- Booking reference number (hope you saved those booking e-mails!)
- Your contact information
- Details about your situation
You may need other information not included on this list. The list above if the information I needed for my form, and its purpose is to help you get started.
4. Wait for a Response
When money is involved, the anticipation is not better than the actual event. But waiting is necessary, and it’s part of the process. The airline has 60 days to respond to your claim before you are eligible to escalate it. Put a reminder in your calendar and just try not to think about it until then. But periodically check your Junk Mail folder, just in case!
5. Provide Relevant Paperwork
This is where the receipts come in handy. If you have electronic copies of the receipts, just take some screen shots and attach them to an e-mail. If you only have a paper copy of one or more of your receipts, use an app on your phone or tablet like Cam Scanner to scan and e-mail it.
You may also need a letter of authorization if you were traveling with someone who has a different surname. I was traveling with my younger brother, but because I changed my last name when I got married, Flybe needed my brother’s authorization to release the compensation to me. If you need this, the airline will let you know.
6. Provide Your Bank Details
This part gets complicated if your bank is outside of the EU. I gave Flybe Airlines all the bank information they asked for, and I let them know I’m an American with an American bank. I asked specifically if they needed more information, and they said no. I just needed to wait 21 days for the money to show up in my account.
Twenty-one days later I still didn’t have my money. I e-mailed to ask why, and they told me the deposit was denied by Flybe’s treasury department for insufficient information (they probably knew that the first day and I shouldn’t have had to wait until day 21). They fed me a lot of other objectively bogus information, like saying my bank must be holding it until I claim it (I called to ask, they do not do that). Anyway, here is the information you will need to provide as an American. Even if they don’t ask you for all of it, provide it anyway. I could have saved myself more than a month of waiting if I had known what a swift code was.
- Your Name
- Bank Name
- Account Type
- Account Number
- Routing Number
- Swift Code (Ask your bank for their unique code; this is required for an international wire transfer.)
- Bank Address (Ask your bank for this.)
- Your Billing Address
7. Wait for Payment
Again, the anticipation is not better than the actual event. The flight was cancelled on June 29, 2019. I submitted my claim on July 5, 2019. The initial confirmation that the money would appear in my account came on September 30, and they said it would take 21 business days. When that didn’t happen, they asked for the additional information, including the Swift Code, and on November 5, they said the money would be in my account within 5 business days.
Five business days later: no money. So I e-mailed again to ask about it, and they wrote back to say they resubmitted the information and it would be in my account in 7-14 business days. It finally arrived in my account just yesterday, November 20, 2019! I waited 144 days for my money, and the third try was a charm. Do not give up! Amounts will vary, but for me, $861.31 USD was worth fighting for. That’s a round-trip flight to Europe–on any airline except Flybe!
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