EUclaim, the Dutch company behind website www.euclaim.co.uk is setting up office in the UK this month. EUclaim specialises in gathering and analysing flight data, which it uses to assist passengers who suffer flight cancellations or long delays and are in dispute with their airline companies over compensation. Based on an average UK flight cancellation rate of 1.2%, an estimated 1,000 UK passengers every day are entitled to compensation of up to £430 each. Which means that every year UK passengers are losing out on a staggering £115m of unclaimed compensation.
Over the last year EUclaim has received more than 40,000 claims in the Netherlands alone and has claimed compensation for some 4,500 passengers collecting an average payout of £865 per filed claim. Claims have been made under the little-publicised EC Regulation 261/2004, which was introduced in February 2005, and gives air passengers rights to compensation and assistance in the event of denied boarding, cancellations, long delays and involuntary downgrading. Under EU law airlines can cancel flights up to two weeks before departure without paying compensation to its passengers and they do not have to pay in cases of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ such as technical problems before take-off. And there’s the rub.
There is evidence that in most cases airlines will reject claims made by individual passengers, stating ‘extraordinary circumstances’ as the cause of the delay or cancellation. But more often than not this is simply not the case.
“It is virtually impossible for passengers to object to airline statements about technical circumstances. As a result the airlines have been able to effectively hide behind the claim of extraordinary circumstance - until now,” says Hendrik Noorderhaven CEO, EUclaim.
EUclaim has extensive computer systems that monitor every single aircraft of every airline, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Using this comprehensive flight intelligence EUclaim has successfully proved in some 70% of received passenger complaints that airlines had cancelled, rebooked or overbooked flights for economic reasons and not as a result of ‘extraordinary circumstances.’
Regulation 261/2004 clearly states that airlines should inform passengers about their rights in case of an incident. Most airlines and travel agencies sadly do not do this. So just how can non-frequent flyers know what their rights are or the level of compensation that they are potentially entitled too?
“The process of filing a complaint is difficult and cumbersome,” says Noorderhaven. “The EC provides a standard form, but it does not guide passengers through the law and provides no further on-line assistance. As Regulation 261/2004 requires that claimants provide information on, for example, flown distance, circumstances and obligations, it is no wonder that passengers don’t bother to make a claim.”
Simple to use www.euclaim.co.uk provides an on-line eligibility check which automatically calculates the amount of compensation that air passengers are entitled to. As a result of EUclaim’s intervention and the company’s capability to show the stated extraordinary circumstances did not occur, a long list of airlines including BA, easyJet, Air France, KLM and United Airlines have agreed to pay compensation to passengers without resorting to legal proceedings.
“Some of our customers had written 6 letters to airlines before asking EUclaim for help,” says Noorderhaven. “In one case a passenger had been communicating with an airline company for over 6 months. After EUclaim got involved, the airline in question paid up within 2 weeks. Why? Airlines know that passengers will eventually give up. EUclaim won’t.”