UPDATE: My Delta / KLM EU (EC) 261/2004 request is denied – again!

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I promised an update to my attempt to get compensation from Delta for my almost three hour departure delay and more than five hour arrival delay under the EU (EC) 261/2004 regulation. Let me first bring you up to speed on what happened. I was planning on keeping much of this for a multi-part post about the trip, but for now I will break this part out on it’s own.

I had booked flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Gothenburg (GOT) on Delta. All were Delta flights other than the little hop from Amsterdam (AMS) to GOT and the same on the return. On the return, the KLM regional jet “went mechanical.” It was delayed again and again and at or just before the three-hour-delay mark, it was at last fixed and we departed.

The result of this LONG delay however was that I missed my connecting Delta flight and had to find other flights to get home. Here is where it gets really “fun”. I had booked the ticket in coach, and then used my shiny new Global Upgrade certificates to get confirmed business class seats both ways (other than the little KLM hops). Now that I had missed my flight – due to KLM – I was no longer on business class flights home! After much bribing with chocolate and hard work by the lounge folks in AMS, they got me on the most direct flights they could that day and in business the whole way.

So I arrived MUCH more than five hours later than originally booked. By my watch, I was delayed more than three hours on the departure but Delta is sticking with the fact I was “only” delayed 2 hrs, 50 min departing. Either way, they agree I was more than five hours delayed on the arrival into LAX. However, they are saying that’s not their issue. Using my fellow BA blogger Chris Elliotts published Delta contacts, the corporate offices, in again denying my request for compensation under the regulation, said to me:

“I understand you’ve requested a review of your claim for compensation under the guidelines of European Union regulation which defines an airline’s requirements when flight irregularities occur. I’ve read through your original emails and our responses to be sure my colleague’s consideration was complete. It is correct that the arrival time of your final destination is a factor in determining if EU cash is legally due by law. But it’s important to point out that this mandate is also based on the delay of the operating carrier from Europe. Since the delay on KLM was less than 3 hours and you were connecting to a mainline Delta-operated flight into the U.S., cash compensation is not due under the European Union regulation.” – Customer Solutions Specialist, Corporate Customer Care Delta Air Lines

Now this really troubles me on so many levels. ALL the flights were Delta CODE-share flights and it was a Delta ticketed flight so my ONLY source for compensation is Delta, not KLM or the KLM regional carrier who operated the first flight that resulted in the delay. Next, I am baffled by the fact that Delta is saying, as I understand the wording above, that since my Delta flight was not late there is no basis for a claim under the regulation.

Please also keep in mind, under my first request, Delta did give both Lisa and me 20,000 Skymiles each that I do appreciate and value. But this does not change, in my opinion, the fact that under the regulation I should still get further compensation for the mechanical delay.

Lastly, as a word of warning when using Delta Global Upgrade certificates, be ready for a REAL battle if you miss your confirmed flight — even when it is the airline’s fault that you missed that flight.

What do you think readers. What should I do next. According to this Wikipedia post I can attempt to have third-party sites help me get compensation when airlines refuse to honor the regulation. Should I reach out to one of these and push this to the next level or let it go? I will leave it up to you to tell me what I should do next! – René

What should I do next regarding my Delta EU (EC) 261/2004

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30 comments

  1. I had a similar situation happen to me in September. I was flying from Stockholm to Amsterdam to Detroit. Only ARN-AMS was on KLM; AMS-DTW was Delta metal. When I arrived in Amsterdam, I learned the Detroit flight was overbooked and they needed volunteers. I gave up my seat and was rerouted on KLM to London Heathrow. This was on the condition of a business-class seat from LHR to DTW and $600 compensation. I was told by KLM agent that I would receive my boarding pass and voucher in London because they couldn’t print this out for a Delta flight not departing Amsterdam. I verified this with the supervisor. When I arrived in London, I was given an economy-class ticket and was told they had no voucher for me. I went to three different agents before finally finding a Delta red coat supervisor. She tried to help but her supervisor (station manager?) wouldn’t let her issue me a business-class ticket. She did, however, clear a three-seat economy-comfort row for me. I called Delta and spoke to a supervisor. He basically called me a liar because he said it was my word against the computer system, which gave no indication of anything. I tried reasoning with him that it would have made no sense for me to randomly change my flight from Amsterdam to London and then Detroit. Both this supervisor as well as the red jacket in London claimed they had no way of calling the KLM agent and supervisor who I had dealt with about two hours previously in Amsterdam — surely she would remember me. Needless to say, I was furious. Beyond furious. Some of the flights attendants (all ex-Northwest) were standby nearby and heard me. They were sympathetic and one apologized, saying this sort of problem between Delta and ita partners happens all too often. While I was in economy-comfort, they went out of their way to be nice to me and make sure I had as much drinks as I wanted. When I got home, I wrote a long complaint to Delta. They eventually sent me $600 or $700 in compensation without me asking because my delays exceeded E.U. regulations.

  2. I would let it go. I’ve had much longer delays on Delta, Northwest, and KLM and never gotten a dime in compensation. Does anyone really get this compensation? I’m just happy to get home in the original or better class of service. I have no clue about third party sites claiming they can get you compensation — is it like those third parties who claim they can negotiate people’s credit or taxes and really just take your fee, change the name of their business, and move on having done nothing? Again, no clue, but I’d be very cautious about getting a third party involved, other than my own attorney — and it doesn’t seem worth getting an attorney involved? Sorry, not too helpful, I have more questions than answers…

    I look forward to hearing what you decide.

  3. @Peachfront – the UE rules are MUCH different than the US rules. Thus the complaint. I look forward to what readers ask me to do next (or not to do). PS – I may toss out votes that come from DELTA CORP computer system 😉

  4. Correct me if this quick summary of events is wrong – I want to make sure I understand it.

    –Your flight from Gothenberg to Amsterdam was delayed (apparently by less than three hours);
    –That caused a ripple effect of missing your connection in Amsterdam;
    –You were rebooked on a new flight from Amsterdam, but not in Business Class;
    –After some wheeling & dealing you were rebooked on a different flight, arriving much later, but in Business Class.

    That leaves two questions:

    1. Do the EU regulations require that you not be delayed on arrival for more than 3 hours only, or do they also guarantee that you will get to fly in the class seat you were originally booked in? If the former is true, then:

    2. Would the flight that was originally offered to you (in coach, not Business) have gotten you to your destination within the allotted 3 hour timeframe?

    I may be misreading this, but I’m guessing that the originally proffered flight alternative (in coach) might have met the EU time requirements. If so, AND if the rules don’t require same-class-as-booked service, then Delta has a point: They offered to get you to your destination within the limits allowed and you rejected that in favor of a more comfortable seat.

    Of course, the originally proffered flight alternative may itself have arrived later than the 3 hour mark – in which case, I’d think Delta is responsible.

    Nonetheless, you have to ask yourself whether it’s worth the effort. 600 Euros is a little over $700 today. Not chump change, but how many hours of fighting will it take to get it, if you even succeed? How much is that time worth to you? That’s a question only you could answer.

  5. Please pursue this because it is only if people pursue cases like this will the airlines change how they handle things!

    It would also be good for your loyal readers to know how these 3rd parties work and if they are successful! How do you pay them? Is it a flat fee or do they only take a cut of the compensation (and thus get nothing if they fail)?

  6. I had a claim with AA and this is what I got

    “Further, we thank you for giving us the opportunity to respond to your request for compensation based on European Regulation 261/2004. Under EU regulations, carriers are not required to provide EU compensation in the event that the carrier performed all necessary maintenance checks and took all steps feasibly viable to prevent a mechanical cancellation or delay. We can assure you our aircraft undergo all required maintenance; however, despite the best preventive maintenance, some malfunctions cannot be predicted. Our records indicate all required measures pertinent to this flight were taken; therefore, no compensation under the EU Regulation No. 261/2004 is due.”

  7. Give up? Why?

    Last year I let a few things slide as I was “just happy to get home” because I thought Delta had my back. But, they have no problem taking away benefits for medallions when and how they want regardless of how much I spend with them.

    Soooo, this year I’ve already decided should Delta do something even slightly silly, I am automatically writing a letter to the company. This is so that I can make up ALL of the lost RDMs due to the new SkyMiles program rules.

  8. I had a mechanical failure on a Delta metal flight out of Berlin 3 years ago. The re-routed me overnight through AMS and I arrived home one day later. I tried to get the EU compensations through different channels and nothing worked. There really was no one to talk to on the EU side, and I eventually gave up. But Rene is good at pressing his case and I think he will prevail.

  9. If this exercise is about time/money then no. If about getting some additional knowledge/experience for you and your readers than yes.

  10. The EU regulations are the bane of all EU airlines and many others as well. The rules are tightly drawn and place heavy burdens on the airlines. I am not discussing here whether the regulations are fair to passengers, too generous, not generous enough or what. The EU regulations oblige airlines to shell out cash, not vouchers which may get lost or never used, but hard cash when they would prefer not to. That is why Delta are fighting this.

    That said I can’t see on a reading of the regulations that they have a leg to stand on. The flight left from an EU airport and the arrival at the final destination on the ticket was more than five hours late and over 3500 km away. The regulations specifically define how to determine distance by saying “In determining the distance, the basis shall be the last destination at which the denial of boarding or cancellation will delay the passenger’s arrival after the scheduled time.” That means it is envisaged that there will be circumstances where the ripple effect of more than one flight may give rise to compensation even if the first flight does not, as in this case.

    The regulation says “Final destination” means the destination on the ticket presented at the check-in counter or, in the case of directly connecting flights, the destination of the last flight;” If you had two tickets there would be nothing to talk about as the delay out of Europe was less than three hours.

    If you have the energy and time fight Delta. Make a complaint to the European aviation authorities. I am surprised they are looking to stiff you. This is the sort of thing airlines, all of them not just Delta, try on once a year flyers, not FF blog masters! The position with your upgrade is not so clear as you were not placed in a class lower than that for which the ticket was purchased, with ‘purchased’ being the operative regulation word. Maybe that was why Delta gave you some miles.

  11. The way I understand the third party sites, you have nothing to lose. They take a cut of whatever they can get, but I don’t think you have to pay them anything up front. So totally worth it.

  12. This is the point where you send a nasty gram from the top down. I have found that sending an email to the CEO all the way down to the head of customer service does wonders.

    When I have had issues with Rogers Telecomunications, Comcast, USAir and Delta, I have found this to be very useful. I would think at that level, your name may actually help you as they probably want you to be as pro delta as possible in your blog.

    When I sent my email to Delta back in in 2012, I got a form letter in the mail that was absolute BS as it was so generic and cut and paste, it didn’t even respond to the issues I had commented on, but then I also got an email from:
    Shep Macintosh
    Coordinator, Corporate Customer Care
    Delta Air Lines
    and the email name was 9800 Exec Request.
    I think the original person I sent it to at the time was Susan Judson and then CC a copy to the head of sky club for NY, as one of their people was very gracious and went above and beyond to help ALL of the passengers that walked into her JFK club that day,

    Either way, good luck.

  13. I checked into one of the refund sites (refund.me). Very interesting. It works on 15% commission and has a 94% success rate. I read that most folks either don’t know the rules or don’t bother to submit a claim, so overall only 2% of passengers get the compensation that is due to them. Your case seems not entirely clear cut, but it’s worth finding out if you meet the EU guidelines or not. Surely the refund site would not bother to follow up on your claim if they think it has no merit.
    Thank you for your post. I learned a thing or two from your post and from doing some research on my own.
    Good luck. I’ll be following your posts to learn the results.

  14. @Carlos — I think that response is not true. Of course any airline is going to say that they everything they could to prevent the delay. I suggest going through one of the websites that will push the claim for you.

  15. Seems like you had the choice of getting home quicker if you had accepted the coach seat (and presumably got back your GU cert) but opted to get an alternate business class route still using your GU cert that got you home later and you each got 20,000 miles each so I would let it go.

  16. I had a similar situation, I was denied. A few weeks later my friend I was traveling with (no status) sent in a complaint and got a $400 voucher. Only after I pointed this out did I get any compensation, and then received a $400 check a few weeks later. I’d be interested to hear if you do one of the 3rd party sites and if it works out.

  17. @Andrew – had they downgraded my class of service I would have got MORE not less. as I posted this was the most direct route!

  18. I had a 5 hour delay on a Virgin Atlantic flight (SFO to LHR) that was a DL code share last year. I used refund.me and received around $600 after their commission it took about 6 months, but I only spent about 20 minutes of my time on it.

  19. my wife had a long delay with Cathay Pacific, who refused the claim outright (mechanical failure) .
    We “outsourced” the claim to euroclaim, which took the case to European court, and eventually got the money (600 euro) for us -/- their cost (don’t remember the cost).
    The whole case took over 2 years, but they did keep us updated well.
    If you outsource it, it will cost you some, but only if you win, but it takes all the work out of it, and they will inform you right away whether you have a good case or not.

  20. Website is http://www.euclaim.nl and the costs they calculate is 29% which is steep, but they take the money out of the payout you get.
    There are several companies who can do this for you

  21. The EU/EC 261/2004 claims are not clear on the criteria for compensation for delays instead relying on court decisions. Denial of claims on the margin is how airlines keep these costs manageable. The simple question for Renee is were you on a single ticket where there are no intervening excludeable causes and you arrived at your destination later than 3hrs for your flight? Under precedent you are due compensation but Delta can fight it, take it court and try to overcome the precedent set to pay for delays in addition to cancellations.

    Delta’s analysis and response are wrong. As long as you haven’t take any action that extended the delay, other than accepting options presented by the airline, and there were no extraordinary circumstances, the EU regulation measures original vs actual arrival time (first door open and passengers able to disembark). Whatever happens in between or who the carrier may be is irrelevant as long as there is an EU airport departure for non-community carriers.

    Only thing to calculate is do you want to press on with more analysis directly with Delta or is your time worth the off-take by one of the specialist agencies? Either way make delta pay what they are obligated they are always doing that to us when it comes to the tickets we buy.

  22. I think Delta is wrong on several level so go for it. First, there was the delay from GOT to AMS which was over 2 hours and covered under the over 2 hour delay flights within Europe of less than 1500 km. Then you get into the arrival and class from AMS to LAX. You were booked Business and had an arrival time so anything less has compensation to it under EU regs. The EU regs have certain requirements for the airlines to notify a passenger of their rights and the reason for delay etc. Having been delayed I have never had the US airlines provide any information about EU regs and requirements, like clock keeps going until doors open not wheel on tarmac. Good Luck.

  23. @rene Thanks for the clarification. I didn’t vote as I felt I couldn’t make an informed vote, I just left the comment. I look forward to following the story to see what happens with AirHelp. Good luck! I hope you do get what you’re entitled to. It will be interesting to see the process.

  24. I expect that legally because it was two different airlines, you are out of luck. I understand Delta not taking the responsibility for KLM in this case. But more importantly, Delta compensated you with 40,000 miles. I think that covers goodwill pretty well.

  25. @Mike – And you are incorrect. It is a Delta CODE SHARE so they are the ticketing partner and on the hook. Plus, 40k Skymiles worth $400 does NOT equal the same as 1200 EURO worth about $1400-ish 😉

  26. I had a similar situation happen (KL CPH-AMS was delayed on mechanical, misconnected at AMS and rebooked on a later AMS-DTW flight and misconnected at DTW and arrived home over 3 hours late). I mentioned pursuing the EU compensation to the woman next to me – she happened to be a high level CS manager who supervises EU compensation at DL (what a coincidence!) She explained everything pretty thoroughly to me and it was clear I didn’t have a claim. Really interesting conversation though, and I still got $200 from the Diamond line for compensation. I’ll take it.

  27. My flight from CDG-DTW (Delta Metal) was canceled due to missing pilot a few weeks ago. The earliest they could get me on was through ATL getting me in about 10 hours later than I was suppose to. Am I eligible for compensation? All I got was 12,500 miles without asking.

  28. @Chris – You should be. I would file. If they say no then go to the 3rd party route as I have. I am still in process.

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