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My friend and I were supposed to fly with AirEuropa from Tel Aviv to Madrid early in the morning. Two other friends were to flight to Madrid from another country and to wait for us there. Then, taking our car in the airport we planned to drive to Bilbao where we have rented an apartment. Both our friends and we selected our flights so that time difference between our arrivals would be minimal.

Due to some unexpected circumstances, we were not able to check in online. We came to airport 2.5 hours before the flight and went to check in. The airline representative told us that the flight is overbooked, and we, being the only passengers who have not checked in online, will be transferred to another flight shortly.

We were promised another flight in the nearest hour, however after waiting for 40 minutes near the counter, we were told that the only available option is flying via Rome and arriving in Madrid at 21.00 instead of 12.00. Long story short, having no choice, we accepted this offer, meaning that we were forced to rent two rooms in an airport hotel in Madrid, for our friends and for us, as we could not drive in the foreign country at night, after an exhausting day. Total, hotel and transportation has cost us about 150Euro, not mentioning a shortened vacation and a very nervous day for us all.

Right after coming home we filed a claim on the AirEuropa site, we got a confirmation, however today, 2 weeks later, we are still waiting for their response. What should we do if we won't get an answer from them?

EDIT:

@Henning Makholm: 1) We will be happy enough with the standard compensation. 2) The representative told us that because all other passengers have already checked in online, there couldn't be any volunteers.

@Traveller We haven't had insurance covering delays.

EDIT2:

Got an answer from them today:

Dear client,

We acknowledge receipt of your letter

We apologize for the inconvenience and disappointment this has caused you. We inform you that we have forwarded the complaint to our CUSTOMER SERVICE, who centralized and processes all applications for our passengers. The CUSTOMER SERVICE located at our headquarters in Palma de Mallorca - Spain, will now be your exclusive contact and will handle your request as soon as possible.

We also inform you that the answers will take several weeks, months, depending on all the information needed to provide you with the appropriate answers.

Is it acceptable to wait several months for resolving a simple overbooking claim?

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    Did you demand reimbursement of your actual expenses, or the standard EU compensation of 600 euro per passenger denied boarding for a flight over 3500 km? – Henning Makholm Oct 14 '18 at 23:00
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    (By the way, your description sounds like the airline has reneged on its duty to call for volunteers before bumping you off involuntarily. If you end up taking them to court, this might be grounds for awarding a higher compensation, but it feels unlikely that you can get anything extra out of that without getting lawyers involved). – Henning Makholm Oct 14 '18 at 23:11
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    This probably needs to go back to law. Basically, you can threaten to sue Air Europa in the place of origin, the place of arrival, or their place of business. (See Rehder vs Air Baltic.) Israeli law doesn't recognise EC 261/2004, so unless you are an experienced litigant in Israel, that's probably the wrong answer. Don't think Spain has online court filings, so that doesn't sound like an easy choice either. I would farm this out to one of those online bodies that takes a huge cut and be happy with the result. – Calchas Oct 14 '18 at 23:34
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    Do you have travel insurance with cover for a delay? – Traveller Oct 15 '18 at 6:06
  • Given that Air Europa appears to be an EU airline, it looks like you just need to demand the standard EU compensation from the airline. There are multiple websites showing you how to do so, or you can transfer your rights to an agency that will do it for your for a share of approx. 20 percent of the 600 Euros. – DCTLib Oct 15 '18 at 13:10
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Legally, the case is clear, at least as far as the compensation goes. It's rather a question of enforcement.

Your passenger rights

AirEuropa is an EU carrier, flying into an EU airport, so the EU passeger rights regulation (261/2004) does apply.

As you were denied boarding, you have a right to the standard compensation of 600 EUR, per Article 4 und 7 (the Internet says the distance seems to be just above 3500km, but I didn't check the distance between the airports specifically).

This compensation is for your inconvenience, not for expenses. You can get this on top of everything else.

Expenses are covered in the "Right to care" (Article 9): This includes meals, refreshments and accomodation if necessary and is in addition to the compensation.

I'd argue that this includes your hotel stay, even though the airline may argue that your travel had already ended at this point.

The fact that "all other passengers checked in online" has no meaning at all. You had a valid reserevation and presented yourself early enough. It does not matter that you are not a EU citizen, and you cannot legally give up those rights.

The real life

Almost everything you said about the interaction with the airline sound fishy. Normally you would have at least been allowed to the gate on a standby basis, even if they couldn't check you in, just in case some other passengers didn't show.

The could also have called for volunteers at the gate. Good airlines often do, as this makes everyone happy: The volunteer also gets the compensation, and usually someone is happy to take the money and the next flight.

The reason not to make the call would be that if they don't you may not claim the compensation, and they save the money. Together with the absurd mail that they sent, I'd guess that this is their main interest.

While I cannot say for sure, you should labor under the assumption that everyone you interact with is instructed and paid to try and make your claim go away.

What to do

Your task is to make the airline understand that the claim will not go away, not matter what they do, and that it is in their own best interest to pay up.

I'd first write to them that you specifically claim compensation and reimbursement for your costs under EU regulation 261/2004, clearly state that it applies in this case.

Present all the receipts and information that may be necessary, but keep copies. Set a (reasonable, not next week) date at which you expect their response and reaction. Tell them that even if they cannot process the reimbursement right away, they should send the compensation right away, as there is no doubt that it applies here.

Say that if you don't hear by them until then, you will take legal action and hold them liable for all expenses that result from their inaction.

If they do not react by that date, give them a "last chance" to react, and set a new date.

If they still stalling, you can either hire a legal counsel (which you may have to pay yourself); or give the case to one of the "EU flight rights portals". Those will take legal action on your behalf; you only pay a percentage of the compensation if you are successful. I'd say that for the portals it shouldn't make a difference if you're from outside the EU.

If they pay only the compensation and refuse the reimbursements, it is your call if you want to fight or let it slip. This is a bit less clear-cut than the compensation case; and if you don't find a flight-rights-portal that takes it on you may want to compare the risk of litigation against the cost of the night in the hotel.

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