7

I had a connection flight Europe -> US -> South America. That was with AA. In US [at least in the connecting airport I was] there is the law that the passenger should take their own suitcases and proceed to the check-in of the next flight (the suitcases when entering US are not being automatically transferred to the next flight)

Originally there were supposed to be 2 hours to change in US [pass the border control and pickup the suitcase] but there was a 40 mins delay on the landing and also the suitcases took ages to come up. At the end despite running all the way I missed my next flight and ended up being offered a flight next day with overnight hotel offered.

AFAIK There is an european law that in such long flight if the arrival is later than 6 hours there should be a compensation.

Would this case of delay due baggage delay be a valid reason to ask for a refund ?

  • 3
    What the cause of the delay on the first flight? Note that in any case you will not get a refund, you might get compensation. – jcaron Feb 1 '16 at 22:45
  • You were asking for it, booking a two hour connection when you have to clear immigration and customs. Of nearly 20 international arrivals I think I would have made this connection only once. (The limiting factor being the time they stop accepting bags for the outgoing flight.) – Loren Pechtel Feb 2 '16 at 2:27
6

You are correct that EU passenger rights entitle you to a monetary compensation for long delays (on top of the duty to bring you to your destination and provide food and lodging as applicable, which was the case here). These rules apply to all flights departing from the EU, even to the US with a US carrier.

In practice, there are two reasons why you are unlikely to receive anything in this particular case:

  • It's not entirely clear that the rules cover missed connections. The EU Commission seems to think it should and asks for the rules to be “clarified”, which is another way to say that in practice it does not. Considered on its own, your initial flight was only delayed by 40 min, which is well below the threshold. That – and not necessarily the luggage delay per se – is the main problem.

  • Airlines do not have to offer any compensation if the delay is due to “extraordinary circumstances” including bad weather. So if the initial delay was due to something like that, the airline might be able to avoid giving you any money on this basis alone.

Contrary to what others have implied, you might even choose to get a refund in some cases. But then the airline does not have to carry you anymore (that is you can choose to stay home if you learn that your flight will be delayed for more than five hours but you cannot get a free flight/ask to get your money back after reaching your destination simply because you arrived there later than expected).

3

You can try. Sometimes you are successful.

According to the relevant EU-regulation you may have a right to compensation, EUR600 in your case, unless

The Airline is not obliged to provide cash compensation in the case of extraordinary circumstances which could not have been foreseen even if the airline took all reasonable precautions, according to Article 5, Paragraph 3.

In practice I recommend the following approach:

  1. If the delay clearly was due to unforeseen circumstances (e.g. weather, but also strikes in most cases), give it up here or go directly to step 3
  2. Contact the airline, make your claim according to the regulation and set them a deadline, at least 2 weeks would be usual but also more
  3. If they do not respond or respond negatively, a convenient way is to sell your claim to a lawyer specialized in this for a commission (e.g. this one comes up first on google, they take 25% of the compensation). I believe those companies only take up cases that they deem successful in the first place.
  4. Alternatively in Germany there is a "Schlichtungsstelle" which offers a mediation process free of charge after you went through step 2. I can't find confirmation of this, but a link to Germany might be needed (e.g. flight departed from Germany), for sure the company needs to be a member on this list. You can still proceed to step 3 or 5 if you are not happy with their suggestion or the airline does not accept it.
  5. Get a lawyer do fight for your claim, up to in court. You should be really sure you are right though and aware of the legal costs involved.

The success of these claims depends on individual circumstances both of your delay and how well you fare in the legal process and I think it is very difficult to give individual advice. You can try, but don't get fixated on it and e.g. step 5 should really be an exception.
Airlines of course notoriously tend to dismiss claims so don't give up too early. Lufthansa once claimed a delay was due to a weather delay of the aircraft on a previous flight, whereas the pilot had announced during the flight that crew had been stuck in traffic on the way to the airport. I was successful in getting compensation only after going through steps 2 and 4.

3

The EU recently published clarification regarding various EU262/2004 issues that were previously unclear. In your case the text of interest is:

In accordance with Article 3(1)(a), passengers who missed a connection within the EU, or outside the EU with a flight coming from an airport situated in the territory of a Member State, should be entitled to compensation, if they arrived at final destination with a delay of more than three hours. Whether the carrier operating the connecting flights is an EU carrier or a non-EU carrier is not relevant.

For what it's worth, I obtained compensation a year or two ago in a similar situation. I flew EU to US and arrived with a 2 hour delay, missing an internal connection in the US. I was given hotel and food vouchers, rebooked for the next day and received 600 Euro compensation from BA without them raising any objection. In my case the cause of the delay was clearly the fault of the airline.

0

Given that you did fly to your destination, a refund is unlikely. You can still complain and they may offer you a voucher for a future flight (or part thereof). It is at the discretion of the airline and may depend on your status with them.

As for the circumstances, they seem to have performed well in terms of service, given that the delay could easily have been beyond their control. Not all airports in the US need you to transfer luggage and it may be good to learn which ones do an do not for when you compare future trips. I often have a US stop coming from South America and I know that Miami Airport requires the manual luggage transfer but not Atlanta (at least with Delta or AA).

  • You didn't do customs anywhere coming back from South America? I'm surprised. – Andrew Lazarus Feb 1 '16 at 22:49
  • I think you are mistaken about US airports. Were you flying from Canada by any chance? If that's the case, it's the Canadian airport, not the US airport (or possibly the combination between the two) that matters and you did have to carry your luggage yourself through US customs… but you did it in Canada and not after landing in the US. In Europe, that's only available in Ireland, no matter where you land in the US. – Relaxed Feb 1 '16 at 23:22
  • 1
    Often, we fly from Ecuador to Canada via the US, we must move our luggage when passing through Miami but not Atlanta, for example. That's because the luggage is tagged I2I for International-to-International which most large airports are allowed, even if not all do. In all cases, we pass customs on arrival to Canada but via Miami we pass it there too, so twice, although its a simple affair since we just show our onward tickets but we still wait for luggage and lineup for customs. – Itai Feb 2 '16 at 1:28
  • 1
    I am surprised that you were able to do that flying from Ecuador and not only to Ecuador. I can tell you that it's not possible coming from (most places in) Europe, my experience is merely anecodotal of course but I just googled it again and found countless reports confirming this, including the airport's very own website. – Relaxed Feb 2 '16 at 10:06
  • 1
    @Relaxed International-to-International transit ("ITI") requires the support of the airline(s), the originating airport and the airport in the US. Your bag is given a big red tag at check in, with "INTERNATIONAL TO INTERNATIONAL: DO NOT RETAIN IN THE UNITED STATES" printed on it, and it is transferred directly to the next aircraft, without a customs inspection. Inspection of hand luggage, as well as passport control, continues as normal. To my knowledge, only MIA and DFW do this, and there was a trial of it at SJU. Cannot confirm or deny at ATL. LAX uses a similar procedure for NZ 1 & NZ 2. – Calchas Jun 23 '16 at 15:13

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