flight delays: If you are traveling into, out of or within Europe, don’t be surprised if you spend some time sitting around the airport as flights get delayed or even worse, canceled.
For the past few years, there has been a flight delay problem in Europe from almost all the member countries of the EU and this trend is on the rise.
According to the International Air Transport Association, these delays reached a critical point during the first half of last year (2018), reaching up to 47 minutes in average, which is 133% more than during a similar period in 2017.
With this expected to become even worse in 2019, passengers should plan ahead when traveling to, out of or within Europe so as to accommodate the expected delays. But the question is, why so many delays?
Why the delays
According to Eurocontrol, the organization that coordinates national air traffic agencies in Europe, the primary cause of these delays is staff shortages and a lack of the required capacity of air traffic controllers.
This accounts for about 60% of the problem and it results in reduced efficiency in the airports and thus, the delays.
The other reasons are bad weather, accounting for about 25%, and staff strikes, which are responsible for roughly 15% of the delays.
By eliminating bad weather, which is very hard to predict and get rid of, the lack of capacity, staff shortages and strikes by air traffic controllers cause 75% of the problem, and these can be easily taken care of if the respective European Union member countries address their shortcomings.
This problem has even forced several airlines to lay the blame squarely on Eurocontrol as well as national governments because they undergo losses, inconvenience passengers and also interfere with their freedom of movement, which is among the four fundamental freedoms in the EU.
What to expect
Because this is such a big problem that airlines cannot solve or control, the situation will likely get worse as more and more passengers opt for air transport to their various destinations.
The only way is for the member states to invest more in their staff or alternatively, adopt new technologies that will automate some of the manual processes in their airports.
This will ensure that flights are handled much faster and that some of the processes will still go on even if the members of staff go on strike.
What you can do about it
Just like with the airlines, there is also very little that you can do to improve the situation as a passenger. However, you could reap a lot if you encounter such a delay, in what might turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
This is because there is a consumer protection regulation (EC Regulation 261/2004) that was created to lay out the rules of compensation and passenger assistance if they experience long delays (3 hours or more), are denied boarding or the flight is canceled.
In detail, this regulation stipulates that passengers are due to a €250 compensation for a delay, cancellation, overbooking or missed connection flight for a short-distance trip of up to 1500km.
For a medium distance of up to 3500km, a compensation of €400 is due for the same inconveniencing parameters while the maximum that you can receive is €600 for a long trip of 3500km or more.
Get more info about the compensations and refund please read: https://medium.com/@traveld/how-to-get-thomas-cook-compensation-b9bd5a8b9e5e
This regulation applies to all passengers that have a valid ticket or booking confirmation. Therefore, whether you are going on holiday vacation, on a business trip, using a low-cost airline or even flying free or on a promotional offer under a customer loyalty program, you are eligible to this refund.
The catch, however, is that your start or destination point must be in an EU airport and the airline must be headquartered in either one of the EU member countries.
This regulation does not apply if you did not check in on time. The normal time that is required to check in before departure is 45 minutes and thus, you should be at the airport at least 3/4 of an hour before your flight’s scheduled departure time.
Also, passengers traveling on a private free or discounted offer do not qualify for the refund. Only public offers and deals such customer loyalty programs will qualify you for the rebate.
Because this problem might persist for a while, the best thing is to always make sure you abide by the regulation so that in case of anything, you get to walk with some money out of it.
This, however, might a long and challenging process because you may find yourself facing an entire airline on your own in a David vs. Goliath kind of situation. The best thing would be to look for legal services so as to hasten the process.