After two years of forced stays, many travelers have seen the onset of summer in the northern hemisphere and the reopening of many international travel routes as an opportunity to get some fresh air.
But the grand global reopening has been far from smooth, with short-staffed airports in the UK, Europe and the US struggling to cope with the influx of passengers.
Canceled flights, lost luggage and painfully slow queues have escalated to create a situation so dire it has been dubbed “airmageddon”.
And as the effects of the nightmare to the north reverberate, Kiwi travelers are caught up in the chaos. Here is an overview of your rights if you are unlucky enough to be part of it:
* ‘We’ve got all these beautiful things booked’: Flight cancellations and unworkable itineraries leave the UK-bound family in limbo
* How I made over $1,000 from a flight delay
* How to avoid losing it due to lost luggage
I have arrived at my destination. Alas, my bags did not. What are my rights ?
The Montreal Convention – an international agreement on airline responsibilities – covers baggage on international flights.
Under the convention, the maximum an airline must pay for lost, damaged or delayed baggage is approximately $2,700 per passenger.
If your luggage is delayed, the airline should only procure essential items, so don’t expect them to fully equip you for your vacation. You’ll also need to hoard money to cover what you need and claim it later, so hang on to your receipts.
The Contracts and Commercial Law Act covers domestic flights and states that the airline is liable for loss or damage up to $2,000.
While the law gives travelers 30 days to make a claim, airlines can specify a shorter period in their contracts, so check the fine print before you fly.
If you’re unlucky enough to find yourself without a bag, it’s also worth checking your travel insurance, as some policies offer better lost luggage coverage than the law – up to $30,000.
I was offered a credit for a canceled reservation, but I just want a refund. Am I legally entitled to it?
It depends on where you are. If you are traveling domestically or dealing with a company operating in New Zealand, our old friend the Consumer Guarantees Act has you covered.
By law, the provider must reimburse you in full, plus any additional costs, such as an unscheduled hotel stay.
If the company does not operate here, the consumer protections of its home country will apply. These can vary widely and in some cases there may not even be any.
If you paid with a credit card, you can request a chargeback, where the transaction is reversed and the money is refunded directly to your account.
If a flight is canceled due to circumstances beyond the airline’s control, you can claim reimbursement and compensation for additional expenses. For domestic journeys, compensation is limited to 10 times the ticket price.
For international flights, the Montreal Convention limits reimbursement to approximately $11,000.
My international flight was delayed and I missed my connection. Do I have to pay extra or is it on the airline?
The Montreal Convention also covers this one. If the delay was within the airline’s control, they must reimburse you.
If you’re flying through the EU, you’ll likely get some extra protection, thanks to their fairly comprehensive rules on air passenger rights.
The key thing to remember here is that airlines are not liable to pay compensation for events beyond their control, such as weather events, political unrest, and strikes by airport employees or air traffic control personnel. .
However, they must prove that they took “reasonable measures” to avoid delays or cancellations.
For example, if you were delayed due to weather conditions, but other airlines had prepared adequately and were able to avoid a significant delay, you should still have the right to claim.
My flight was canceled and I’m stuck in transit. What are my rights ?
As above, your rights differ depending on where you are located, where you are flying and where the airline is based.
If you are departing from an EU airport – or traveling to an airport on an EU-based airline – you are covered by the EU’s denied boarding compensation scheme, which specifies coverage for flight cancellations and delays.
In the event of cancellation, travelers are entitled to compensation for:
- re-routing to their final destination, return flight or refund;
- assistance such as meals, phone calls and accommodation;
- compensation proportional to the distance traveled – up to €600 (980 NZD) for flights over 3,500 km.
In Australia, most airlines will fly you on another scheduled service or refund you if they are at fault. Some will pay for meals, accommodation and transfers, but this is at their discretion.
In the United States, airlines must compensate passengers only if they are forced from flights due to overbooking. Compensation is based on the length of the delay and whether you were evicted voluntarily or involuntarily.
If it’s the latter, you can get up to 400% off your one-way fare capped at US$1,350 (NZ$2,150).
For domestic travel, the Civil Aviation Act requires airlines to compensate travelers if a domestic flight is canceled or delayed for reasons within their control, such as personnel issues, but not if the delay is caused by uncontrollable factors such as the weather.
Compensation should include reasonably foreseeable losses, such as the cost of meals, connections or missed events.
Coverage is limited to the actual cost of the delay or 10 times the cost of the ticket, whichever is lower.
Sources: International Air Transport Association, Consumer NZ, Your Europe, Choice.