Airlines should start automatically compensating eligible passengers for cancelled or delayed flights, consumer research group Which? has said.
Analysis of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data found airlines are denying or delaying passenger compensation claims, only to be told to pay out in more than half of cases that customers take to the airline regulator.
The research showed that some airlines had an “alarmingly” high percentage of instances where the aviation body ruled against them.
Scandinavia’s largest airline, Norwegian Air, was advised by the regulator to pay up in 83 per cent of cases. The Spanish airline Vueling, who share the same parent company as British Airways, and budget carrier Ryanair were also told to pay out to passengers in the vast majority of cases, with rulings against them made 79 per cent and 77 per cent of the time respectively.
Of the other high profile airlines that operate in the UK, Thomson Airways were told to pay out in 69 per cent of cases, Thomas Cook was told to pay out to passengers in 41 per cent of instances and Easyjet was told to cough up 39 per cent of the time.
British Airways, who had 1,166 flights delayed by more than three hours in 2016, was advised to pay up in half (48%) of cases.
Under current EU regulations, passengers are entitled to compensation if delayed by more than three hours when flying from the UK or with an EU airline to an EU airport. Passengers flying short-haul would potentially be able to claim €250 if they are delayed by more than three hours, while long-haul passengers could claim €300 if their plane landed between three or four hours late, or €600 if their flight was at least four hours behind schedule.
Which? said the current system is too “muddled” and doesn’t work in travellers’ best interests. It is calling on the Government to introduce a Transport Ombudsman that all airlines must join.
“Some airlines seem to be making it as difficult as possible for passengers to receive the money that they are rightly entitled to for flight delays,” said Which? managing director of home products and services, Alex Neill.
“We want to see airlines introduce measures so that, where possible, passengers are compensated automatically for delays and cancellations,” he added.
Which? said that as the CAA has no power to enforce its judgements, airlines won’t always pay out when asked to do so. “By far the worst offender for this was Emirates, who were advised to issue compensation in 60 per cent of cases taken to the CAA, but still refused to pay up 74 per cent of the time,” said Which?
The analysis found that this refusal stems from Emirates not accepting the CAA’s interpretation of the law with regard to compensating passengers who experience a delay on the first leg of a flight that caused them to miss a connecting flight in a non EU country and, as a result, to arrive at their final destination over three hours late.
An Emirates spokesperson said the way the CAA has communicated this issue is “misleading” and “unprofessional”.
“We will rigorously defend our position, and challenge the blanket application of [EU law] to every situation, without consideration of context or the safety of our passengers,” the airline said.