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I just got bumped from a flight between Manchester and Stuttgart because an 'attendant was taken ill' and only 94 passengers were allowed to board for security reasons. About 30 passengers were given vouchers for food and hotel and booked on to a flight tomorrow evening going via Frankfurt.

I am due to be working on a customer site and have to cancel that at my cost. I decided to spend the night with my family here in Manchester rather than spend 28 hours in a hotel.

What can I claim for here? Germanwings have provided emergency care but can I claim for my taxi to the airport tomorrow and for some compensation for lost earnings tomorrow?

The details:

Planned flight Sun 12 May at 14.25 arriving c 17.00. 
Re-booked flight Mon 13 May at 18.00 arriving c 22.30

Any comments and suggestions appreciated!

UPDATE After receiving no reply to the mail I sent on May 13, I wrote a letter an received an immediate email reply...

Thank you very much for your letter and the associated request. First of all we would like to apologize for the inconvenience caused.

Due to a sudden illness of one of our flight crew members we were not able to carry all passengers booked due to safety-related aspects. In such cases the legislature commits us to reduce the number of passengers accordingly. For this reason we had to rebook some of our guests to an alternate flight and, if needed, to organize a hotel room for an additional overnight. Own capacities were completely utilized.

We can totally understand your anger and regret that this event led to a significant change in your travel planning but due to the reason mentioned above we cannot offer the compensation payment claimed. As a matter of fact we will refund additional incurred costs for phone calls as well as meals and drinks after checking. Hence we would like to offer you to send us respective bills of incurred costs for proving. We kindly ask you to forward your detailed bank and account information (incl. IBAN and BIC-Code) as well.

In addition to this and in order to find a quick solution for both sides we would like to offer you two flight vouchers in the amount of 50,00 € each, without recognition of a legal obligation. You can use these voucher codes for your next flight reservation on our website in the booking step "payment". Each voucher is valid on the whole Germanwings network until 30/04/2014 (that means time of booking - travel date can be later). We kindly ask you to respond until 26/06/2013 if you will accept this solution to close the case.

Is this a valid reason not to be liable for compensation? Should I take the vouchers?

FURTHER UPDATE

Latest denial....

We can totally understand your point of view but as mentioned before this situation was a very special case. Our crew member fell ill on the flight to Manchester and not prior departure. Therefore, Germanwings had no chance to change this crew member or to find an alternate solution than to reduce the number of passengers. There are no crew members based in Great Britain.

The reply then goes on to repeat the 2x50EUR tickets offer...

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Lost earnings - nope. Some travel insurance might cover that, but almost all won't, and the airline won't normally be liable for that sort of thing.

The airline is pretty much always liable in such cases for sorting you out with accommodation and food, which it sounds like they have. (They probably don't have to cover your taxi if you decline the hotel, but it's worth asking them if they will)

In addition, flights from the EU with any airline, and flights to the EU with any EU airline, are covered by EU Regulations. The magic phrase to google for is Regulation (EC) 261/2004. Not only does that cover the accommodation, food and communication stuff, it also provides for additional compensation in the event of long delays (depends on flight length when the cutoff is), cancellations and denied boarding.

If you look at the details you'll see that an intra-EU flight of under 1500km (such as yours), when the delay isn't due to extraordinary circumstances, you're entitled to €250 in addition to the re-routing + food + hotel.

You should contact your airline and ask for your EC 261/2004 compensation, and they should send you a form. Very few airlines seem to pro-actively tell you you're entitled to it, but following a recent ruling of European Court of Justice they're all pretty good about paying it when you know to claim. If you don't get help from the airline, you'll need to talk to your national regulator (the CAA in the UK)

Oh, and it may also be worth asking them about re-routing you with a different carrier to get you there quicker. They are supposed to do so, but often are reluctant to if they can fly you themselves at some point as that's cheaper, and there hasn't yet been a court case to clarify how much of a delay is unacceptable before you can demand a re-routing with someone else.

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    just an update: I contacted Germanwings by email on 13 May and requested the form you mentioned in the post. I have received neither a reply nor the form. – paul May 27 '13 at 10:05
  • I would suggest that if you haven't heard after a month, you contact the regulator in your country – Gagravarr May 27 '13 at 10:53
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    I'd reply explicitly mentioning EC 261/2004, and politely requesting that they issue you with the compensation required under that. From what they have said, I don't think they qualify for any of the exemptions (though I suspect they may try to argue otherwise...!) – Gagravarr Jun 14 '13 at 12:44
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    Speak to the regulator, and see if they agree if the situation was extraordinary circumstances or not (that's the threshold for them getting out of paying compensation). Sounds like you're going to have to fight this one... – Gagravarr Jun 18 '13 at 10:14
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    I would fight this one without a second thought. Employees falling ill is perfectly normal circumstances. Any HR boss of any company can give you the statistical illness rate of his company. If there had been some kind of epidemic, it might count as extraordinary circumstances. – Tom Aug 18 '17 at 18:36
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As Gagravar already explained, a lot is covered in eu regulations. Getting what you are entitled to, can still be a daunting task. I have heard good stories about Euclaim. They offer free advice to what you are entitled to.

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They will have to pay you the standard 250 € compensation, but not for income loss or any other damages. With that delay, you could also cancel the flight, get all your money back, and fly with another airline instead, if you so choose.

Yes, according to Article 9, Paragraph 1 c) they also have to provide or pay for:

(c) transport between the airport and place of accommodation (hotel or other).

So your taxi should be covered, though by my experience they will probably try to dodge out of it (I've had to sink lawyers on the airlines twice already for delayed flights).

The full regulation is here:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32004R0261&from=EN

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This is a standard tactic of some airlines:

They will claim that there were "extraordinary circumstances". This is not the case. A crew member falling ill is expectable, and if they are unable to replace them that is to be blamed on their organization.

In fact German courts have already ruled in favor of the passenger in such cases (see, e.g. LG Darmstadt, 23.05.2012 - 7 S 250/11).

I wouldn't take the vouchers and insist on the compensation. But even if you did take the vouchers I'd still file for compensation. It makes total sense to use one of the "flight rights portals" in this case.

They will most likely refuse the payment until you sue (at which point they may quickly drop the case in order to not create another precedent). Thus it's probably more convenient to let someone handle that for a fee (which you only pay if successful).

I know that the question is open for a while, but it may be useful for others in the same situation - and you could still claim the compensation even now, if you didn't.

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