Last year, with famous EU company L, I had a trip A -> B -> C, with A a US city and B and C EU cities. First flight was at 5:00pm. Connection time in B was 3h. More than 3500 km between A and B.

The morning of my departure, I got a text message from L telling me that my flight was postponed until 12:15am (so a 7h15m delay!), because of a technical problem.

As I was sure to miss the connection in B, I called L. The guy on the phone tells me that I'll get a new flight to C when I'm in B. I refuse, saying it's too risky and I want to address this now. Ultimately, he proposes a trip A->D->C (with D another EU city) departing at 8:00pm and arriving 5h late in C (w.r.t. my original trip). I agreed to this.

But then I arrived early at A airport, at 5:00pm actually. Guess what I saw through the window: my original aircraft A->B was here and was precisely leaving on time! The L ground staff told me there was no problem on this aircraft or flight. I took pictures of the plane and also snapshots of the text messages.

A couple of weeks later, I contacted L and asked for a compensation. In my view, this was a denied boarding covered up as a delayed flight. They never answered to this but, after some insistence (and threatening of telling the Civil Aircraft Agency in my EU country), gave me 300 EUR. I was asking for 600 EUR as I thought it was denied boarding. L only spoke on the phone and never made a written commitment or answer to my mails.

My questions:

  • Am I justified in thinking that a company could cover up a denied boarding as a delayed flight?
  • Do you think I could have gotten 600 EUR, and if so, how then?
  • What behavior would you advise if this happened again?

EDIT: There was only one company, L, I made a typo when I erote F. Fixed now.

  • 2
    Also, you said you booked with L, so who is F? The operators of the flight? Feb 6 '19 at 14:30
  • 14
    Could you please take all the random letters out of your post? It really isn't helpful to ask us to remember what A, B, C, D, F and L mean (and you don't even tell us the important one!), just to understand what you're talking about. We can perfectly well understand that it doesn't matter which exact cities you're talking about if you just say you flew from, e.g., New York to Amsterdam to Warsaw or whatever. Feb 6 '19 at 14:40
  • 6
    Who the heck is "F" and why would they tell you about a delayed flight and not "L". Did you check flight status online with the operating carrier and did it indeed show up as delayed? Did you check with "L" ?
    – Hilmar
    Feb 6 '19 at 14:44
  • 7
    Welcome to TSE. One of the purposes of Stack Exchange is to provide information that will be helpful not only to the original poster, but to future visitors, and as such I do not understand why you obfuscate the name(s?) of the airline(s?) in question— factual information is not libelous, and it is extraordinarily unlikely that the airline would resources to determining your identity for some sort of retaliation.
    – choster
    Feb 6 '19 at 15:29
  • 6
    Using "L" just makes everyone think you're talking about Lufthansa, so you might as well just say "Lufthansa" or, as @MJeffryes suggests, "the airline." Using fictional place names is more confusing (to me, at least) than letters, not less. The advantage of real place names is that forming a mental map of your trip can help the reader understand your story more easily. The abstraction just makes it difficult to follow. Why not just say Newark->Frankfurt->Vienna and Newark->Munich->Vienna or whatever? Are you trying to hide your movements from someone?
    – phoog
    Feb 7 '19 at 13:19

TLDR: You were lucky to get your 300 Euros.

Here's what probably happened. 'Olorin' discovered a problem and thought they might have to delay your flight. They sent out a notice warning all passengers about this, as per good customer relations practice. (People hate being told about problems at the last minute).

You respond to this by calling the airline, who suggest you wait and sort it out later, but you decide you want to get yourself booked on a different flight. Which they do.

Meanwhile the airline has also been working hard to see if they can fix the problem, and sometime during the day they do. The flight goes back to its normal time, and they notify all passengers about it.

Unfortunately for you, you are no longer booked on that flight, so you don't get told. Instead you fly out on the flight that you specifically asked to be put on (against the advice of the airline).

To answer your question:

  • There is no indication that you were 'denied boarding'. Unless you were the only person told that the flight was going to be late, which I'm pretty certain wasn't the case.
  • You were lucky to get your 300 EUR, which the airline probably gave you because you were clearly annoyed and they prefer happy customers, not because you deserved it. You have no chance of getting 600EUR.
  • In the future, don't switch flights immediately, and if you do, maybe call the airline a few times to check the status of the delayed flight.
  • 5
    I hate these delay notices as the airlines effectively hold you hostage. They regularly revert to an earlier or even on-time departure with very short notice and expect you to be waiting in the gate to board.
    – Eric
    Feb 6 '19 at 17:47
  • Thank you for your answer (as well as other answers). Your explanation makes sens, yes. Still, just to make it clear: I did not ask to be booked on a different flight, I asked them to book another B->C flight as there are several B->C flights a day. They suggested the different trip A->D->C. Concerning the text message, I don't know anyone else on this flight so I can't know whether they received it. Finally, the onground crew at A told me there had never been any problem on this flight this day. Feb 7 '19 at 11:59
  • 2
    "I asked them to book another B->C flight". So you did ask to be booked on another flight. A different flight is a different flight, even if it goes to the same place. If you had been booked on another B->C flight you would still not have been informed when the original one was changed back to its original time. Feb 7 '19 at 14:04
  • Well, asking only a later B->C flight meant I was ready to wait for the delayed A->B flight... I just didn't want to arrive late in B and then have to address my second flight to C while I would be exhausted by the overnight A->B flight and under a time shift. Anyway, it's done. It's just that I was still under the impression that it was a faked delayed flight while I suspect it was a denied boarding. And the airline didn't give any explanation, even after contacting them. So I wanted to get the opinion of experimented people. Feb 8 '19 at 8:27
  • @Eric: "expect you to be waiting in the gate to board" - this is clearly announced with the delay (that you have to check-in as planned earlier (when the flight was on time)). I hate it too but this is how it unfortunately works. I almost missed a flight recently by assuming I have 5 more hours to kill, just to be told right before the initial boarding time "yuhu! we will finally be in time, go ahead and board!")
    – WoJ
    May 20 '19 at 11:35

So, a 7:15 delay is specific enough that my presumption would be a crew time issue initially. Somehow, they manged to rectify this and staff the original flight.

However, since you voluntarily rescheduled the flight, you were no longer delayed, presuming the A-D-C itinerary operated on time.

Pro Tip: Un-delaying a flight is quite rare, but it happens. I never push for re-accommodation unless there's a guaranteed new arrival time.

The 300 EUR was probably just hush money to not even file a complaint, despite the likely hood of it not being successful.

  • A good point that crew time is the most likely cause. Feb 7 '19 at 14:28

Why does it matter that your first flight actually flew on time? It is entirely irrelevant to your compensation claim. The relevant sequence of events is:

  1. You were booked for departure at 5 PM.
  2. You were told that the departure was delayed by over seven hours, meaning that you would miss your connection.
  3. You asked for and were booked on an alternative itinerary arriving five hours late.

As far as you were concerned, your flight was delayed. You were certainly not denied boarding. Your right to compensation should be the same as it would be if the original flight had in fact departed at 12:15 AM.

  • It's not going to work like that, and we wouldn't want it to work like that. Because if it did (i.e. whenever airlines announced possible delays they had to pay compensation as if the flight was actually delayed, even if it isn't) then airlines will stop telling passengers about possible delays until the last minute, so that they don't have to pay compensation if the delay doesn't happen. Feb 7 '19 at 14:21
  • 1
    @DJClayworth the critical part of this is not the announcement of the delay, but the rebooking on the basis of that announcement. The airline should either refuse to rebook (which they apparently tried to do), accept that the rebooking to a later flight will give rise to a right to compensation, or, if the air passenger rights regulation permits, disclaim the right to compensation in case the original flight isn't actually delayed as a condition of making the early rebooking. None of these appears to have happened here.
    – phoog
    Feb 7 '19 at 15:59

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.