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The day before we were to embark on our one week trip to Paris and Luxembourg, I got the dreaded “flight cancelled” text. Our KLM flight to Amsterdam had been canceled, and I was worried this might make for a rough start to our trip. With a sinking feeling, I dialed up Delta to see what options they had for us.

I was bummed. One of the reasons I’d booked our exact window was that the cheapest ticket included an outbound from SFO on a KLM 747-400. I’m still in love with the Queen of the Skies, though her glory days are pretty much over. Even though it might be a tired ride in economy, I wanted to experience flying a 747 with my kids (side note: my son is already obsessed with airplanes). It was the perfect itinerary: 747 on the outbound, A380 on the return.

But alas, it was not meant to be.

Rebooking our trip

The Delta rep that finally picked up was friendly and helpful. She offered us a couple different flights, but as I suspected, they didn’t have a lot to offer. The option she was pointing me towards was one with a super tight connection in Salt Lake City (~30 minutes). I was hesitant to book that, knowing the air traffic issues that often plague SFO.

While she put me on hold to find others, I headed to Google Flights and found a couple of my own, including one through Seattle (SEE: 6 reasons Google Flights is the BEST flight search engine). With an 8:00 a.m. departure, it’d be a much earlier wake up than we were planning, but it had a healthy connection window and actually got us into Paris several hours earlier. There was a similar option via LAX from Delta to Air France metal, but I loathe that airport. A connection at SeaTac would be much smoother.

The rep came back with “I don’t have anything else.” I suggested the Seattle option, which she was able to find and book for us (maybe she didn’t look very hard?). I thanked her and hung up. I was still bummed, but this would have to do.

Is this a potential EU261 claim?

Later, it crossed my mind that EU261 might apply in this case (SEE: Submitting and EU261 compensation claim for a delayed or cancelled flight). Our flight on an EU carrier had been cancelled, and although we had been rebooked adequately enough, it was definitely a shift to the original schedule. If I had been flying on a U.S. carrier, there would have been no recourse since EU261 wouldn’t apply to ex-U.S. flights. But KLM is the flag carrier of The Netherlands, so EU261 should apply to all of their flights.

The only things that were confusing to me were the fact that it was ticketed through Delta as a codeshare and the fact that we had been rebooked, albeit not on KLM metal. After heading to all-knowing Wikipedia, I found the following in regard to flight cancellation compensation under EU261:

The airline is also required to pay cash compensation as described below, unless one of the following conditions applies:

  • the airline notifies the passengers at least two weeks prior to departure
  • the airline notifies the passengers between one and two weeks prior to departure, and re-routes passengers so that they can:
    • depart no more than two hours earlier than scheduled, and
    • arrive no more than four hours later than scheduled
  • the airline notifies the passengers less than one week prior to departure, and re-routes passengers so that they can:
    • depart no more than one hour earlier than scheduled, and
    • arrive no more than two hours later than scheduled
  • the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances that could not have been avoided by any reasonable measure.

Since the cancellation notice came one day before departure, I looked to the third condition. All of the options presented to me didn’t qualify for the condition of leaving no more than one hour earlier and arriving no more than two hours later. Individual options (including the one I took) fulfilled one of the conditions (i.e. we didn’t arrive more than 2 hours late), but we did take hours several hours earlier. But because it is an “and” condition, this exception wasn’t satisfied.

Also, since the KLM flight had been cancelled due to operational issues, the final condition did not apply. I found none of the exceptions to be true. This implied to me that our canceled flight could qualify for cash compensation under EU261.

Submitting a claim through Flight Delay Pay

Since it looked like I had enough of a case, I decided to go ahead and submit an EU261 claim. Given that I simply don’t have the time or inclination to track down the forms and go through the rigamarole of submitting a claim myself, I decided to find a service. After a very brief search, I settled on Flight Delay Pay.

The total compensation from the calculator their website provides was €1,800, before fees, €600 per ticket. It was quick and painless to submit all my info into their claim form, and I was on my way.

The next day I received a follow up from Flight Delay Pay with a form to sign, which I got back to them a few days later. They would handle everything from here. I just get to sit back and wait.

Will this pan out?

I received an update a few days ago from Flight Delay Pay stating that our cancelled flight indeed qualifies for compensation. The email informed me that they had checked the flight distance, weather, length of delay and legality of the claim, that this all checked out, and that they had written the airline on our behalf. The email made compensation sound sure, even though the claim had just been submitted. Rather confident, in my opinion.

Even though I used a service that will take nearly 30% of any reimbursement received, it saved we a world of hassle. I’m not sure I would have submitted a claim otherwise. If you feel you are savvy enough to fill out the forms on your own, go for it. You may just end up with quite the long road ahead of you [SEE: (Still) fighting for EU261/2004 compensation].

If the claim goes through and KLM pays out, we should receive approximately $1,500 at the current exchange rate. Flight Delay pay charges 25% of the compensation plus a £25 service charge. It’s one of the cheaper services out there as many charge 30% of the claim amount, plus an admin fee.

Conclusion

While some may argue whether a compensation claim was warranted in my case, I wanted to see how it would play out. By my (and Flight Delay Pay’s) reading of the law, EU261 requires compensation in the case of our cancelled flight. It is totally within my rights as a passenger on an EU carrier.

It didn’t inconvenience us much more than causing a much earlier wake up and lengthening our first zombie day in Paris. But…in other instances this could have been a nightmare. If our return from Paris had been changed much at all, it would have thrown a real wrench in our plans, either causing us to miss time in Luxembourg, or causing me to miss work the following day. I would have absolutely been seeking to invoke EU261 in that case.

What do you think of my claim? Would you or have you used a service to submit an EU261 claim?

Featured image courtesy of BriYYZ under CC 2.0 license

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