All hail the EU: An airline passenger's story
Last summer, my wife and I took a long-awaited trip to South Africa. The experience was about as good as anything we could have hoped for, with one exception.
Our trip took us from Dallas to London, and then from London to Johannesburg on British Airways. The entire experience can be recapped here, but the wheels came off in London when a massive IT failure canceled all BA flights from London for the better part of two days, separating us from our bags and leaving us scrambling to figure out how to get the trip back on track. It was a headache, but there are worse places to be stranded than London.
When we returned we collected our receipts, stuffed them in an envelope and left them in a hall closet for months. Bills were paid, life moved on and it became a "we'll do that next weekend" thing when it came to actually filing our claim.
In reality, there was no rush. The IT meltdown created a backlog of claims for BA and under European Union law we had a whopping six years to file our claim. We finally got to it in February, and this week, received our letter from British Airways telling us what we got back.
That total was $800 more than what we asked for.
That's where EU law comes in again. Because our canceled flight (London to Johannesburg) was more than 3,500km, operated by a European carrier traveling through the European Union, we hit the jackpot of 600 euros per person, which adds equates to about $1,500.
Additionally, we were reimbursed for two nights hotel stay in London, cab fares and the clothes we had to purchase because we had no idea whether or not we'd ever see our luggage again.
I had considered booking that flight on Delta because they 're the only domestic carrier offering non-stops from the United States to Johannesburg. Good thing I didn't because we would have been entitled to exactly nothing had Delta experienced an IT meltdown of their own. In the interest of customer relations, they might have put us up in a hotel for a night or two, and maybe even paid for meals, but there is no law requiring them to do so.
USA Todayhad a nice rundown of the differencestwo years ago.
The bottom line is Americans don't have much in the way of passenger rights, while our European friends do.