Our flight from Europe to South America with a European Airline was cancelled on the 4-5 hours prior to departure due to "technical problems" and we had to take the next flight 24 hours later.

Corresponding to European law, the airline would thus have to compensate us with 600 Euros each plus expenses for hotels and food.

Conveniently for the airline, they argue that those technical problems were caused by bird strike and therefore are uncontrollable (a reason that is explicitly excluded for compensation).

However, we know other passengers traveling with the same plane and the reason they got was that the plane was struck by lighting - which again is a reason that wouldn't require them to pay.

--> After all it seems the airline is making up various reasons so they don't have to pay.

What would be your next steps?

Would the airline give us more technical details on the problem and what they did to fix it? Basically, I want them to prove that the reason they gave me is legit.

Should we take a lawyer and sue the airline?

Could the airline also be sued for fraud if it turned out they are intentionally lying to their customers about the reasons for delayed flights?

  • Depending on the airline and how many planes of the type they have it won't necessarily be easy to find, but it would be interesting to try to find the intended plane's flight history to see if anything inconsistent transpires.
    – jcaron
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 16:46
  • 1
    Also note that if I'm not mistaken, extraordinary circumstances are a reason not to pay compensation, but not assistance, which means they should still be on the hook for hotel and food (though that can be another battle).
    – jcaron
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 16:52
  • Turkish airlines is notorious for this sort of thing. It's frustrating.
    – Fattie
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 17:01
  • We've got a similar situation reported here: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/175149 where they are claiming that the cancellation was due to industrial action, when all the press coverage says it was due to staff shortages. Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 8:42

2 Answers 2


You can try contacting the national enforcement body in the EU country of your departure to hear if they can help. But even if they ultimately agree that it looks like foul play, they can't force the airline to pay out.

At the end of the day, your recourse is indeed to file a civil lawsuit. Since there appears to be a dispute about facts, you will most probably need to engage a lawyer to conduct the suit for you in a way that has any chance of getting the court to find for you.

There are law firms that take compensation cases on a no-cure-no-pay basis. I don't know whether they would touch a case where the airline has alleged a bird strike; you could call a few of them to find out before hiring a traditional lawyer.

(And in the upcoming EU parliament elections you might ask your local candidates how they feel about tightening up the "extraordinary circumstances" loophole in the regulation. Ostensibly it is there to cater for Eyafjallajökull-level calamities that affect all airlines at the same time, but the ECJ has applied it to purely local chance mishaps that for all I can see ought to count as a risk-of-doing-business that the airlines should be expected to factor into their ticket prices).

  • Thank you for your response. Our first try was to threaten a civil lawsuit, pointing out we had insurance for cases like this and that we will go to court. Sadly, that was to no avail and they assured us that the reason they gave was legit. Next up the other passengers try the same and I'm very interested in the response they will get. The next step will then either be the national enforcement body or one of the no-cure-no-pay flight right companies.
    – Inquisitor
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 17:52

Yes, they can lie.

Same thing happened to me. They refused to pay. Said it's unforesable circumstances. I asked what it is. They said that they do not have the right to make this information public.

I turned to an organisation who deals with compensation claims on daily basis and knows the inside outs. And the airline agreed to pay them. Two months later.

So yes, I guess a lawyer, and suing them, for fraud or whatever could be an option.

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