Britain is still slated to leave the European Economic Region (Brexit) and that could have a big effect on travelers like me, who may want to move their flights away from Britain to maintain EU 261/2004 protection.
Flight Delay Compensation EU 261/2004
European Union and European Economic Area member states adhere to regulation EU261/2004 which outlines compensation rules for delayed and canceled flights. Once a flight is delayed in arriving (not departing) by three hours, compensation becomes substantial, it improves again at four hours. In order to be eligible, the flight has to depart the EU/EEA (any airline) or arrive into the EU/EEA (just European airlines) late due to delays other than weather. This applies to any flight, revenue or points redemption. Compensation of 180-239 minutes for trans-Atlantic flights is €400-600 depending on how long the delay and how far the flight. Full details can be found here. Compensation is paid in cash or on a pre-paid card, not an airline voucher.
The regulation is one of few like it in the world that protects the rights of the traveler and is a model for how regulations regarding travel are executed. Once Britain leaves the accord, the protection will go with it.
How It Has Affected My Family?
On three occasions, my family has benefitted from late arriving flights. Once, on a late flight from Chicago, I received the pre-paid card from British Airways before departing O’Hare after being given a free upgrade due to status with American Airlines. On another occasion, a flight into Dublin arrived more than three hours late forcing us to miss a connection. It cost us a very long day at the airport waiting for another flight and forced friends of ours to waste a day going to and from the airport after a number of false starts and near departures.
Last year, we flew a very inexpensive fare to Manchester on Air Transat from Toronto. The return from Manchester experienced a litany of delays that started with mechanical trouble and extended to miscounting passengers as they re-boarded the aircraft. That delay required some follow up from Air Transat but resulted in a payment of more than $2100 for my family paid in check form in USD (despite flying a Canadian airline to and Manchester, England. That payment more than covered our entire trip including meals (we used points for our hotel).
What Will I Do Instead?
We have an upcoming trip into Manchester and it may be our last departing from the US. That doesn’t mean we won’t visit Manchester again, how would we get our Christmas Market fix? We just may not fly long haul in and out of Britain. Why? EU protection is important to us. We want our investment in our trip to be protected. We also want to arrive as close to on-time as possible and with no British equivalent in place, we are concerned about the impetus to try to run a tight ship.
Instead, we will connect in any of the other major European hubs. For inexpensive trips, we can go via Stockholm. For Star Alliance flights, TAP Portugal delivers affordable business class to the US from Lisbon. For oneworld flights we will connect in other American Airlines service cities but most likely Dublin or Madrid. This will also help us to avoid the expensive UK APD underscoring the lack of competitiveness by the UK for long-haul flights.
What about you? Will you change your flying patterns to avoid Britain post-Brexit? Do you think the UK will come up with their own? And though it is a whole other post, shouldn’t the US protect their travelers the same way the EU does?