7/20/22 Update: We received the EC 261 payment a week after Air France's confirmation that it would pay, much less than the 28 working days promised.
7/13/22 Update: Two weeks after we filed our EC 261 claim, Air France confirmed that it will be paid, although the payment will be transferred to our account “within the next 28 working days.” Here's the full text:
“Thank you for your message. Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience you mention.
We are really sorry that the delay of your flight AF XXXX to Madrid on XX June 2022 disrupted your travel plans.
The flight in question was delayed due technical problems.
As you were unable to travel on your original flight, I can confirm that you are entitled to receive a compensation of USD 263 (the equivalent of EUR 250).
This amount will be transferred on your account within the next 28 working days.”
This was followed by confirmation of the amount and account details (with only the last four digits of the bank account provided), since I provided bank account information for electronic transfer of funds.
Air France Owes you EC 261 Compensation for Certain Delays Over 3 Hours. This is also true of other European Union airlines, as well as all airlines departing the EU (but not non-EU airlines flying to the EU). We've applied on behalf of our clients for this compensation, but were lucky enough, until today, to not have to file a claim ourselves. But with the current snafus snarling flights in the U.S. and to a lesser extent in Europe, it was just a question of time.
The Flight Delay
In my flight today, the Captain announced, after all the passengers had boarded, that there was a dent in the aircraft that needed to be examined, and as a result we all deplaned and waited for a new aircraft, which arrived closed to three hours after our originally scheduled departure. During that time we were provided EUR 11 for food and beverages at some of the outlets in the terminal (not, however, Maison du Chocolat or Laduree, so there was no opportunity to splurge on a sweet souvenir).
At no point did the Captain or any of the Air France staff allude to compensation, but this is normal. It was a full flight on this A220, so if each of those passengers applies for and receives EUR 250, that's EUR 37,000 that Air France would have to pay out that the airline doesn't want to.
Applying for EC 261/2004 Compensation
To make your EC 261/2004 claim, go to airfrance.fr/en/claim. You'll need to provide your booking reference and name to get started.
Next, select the reason for your claim; in this case, a delayed flight.
Keep in mind that if your flight was delayed due to an Air Traffic Control decision or freak weather event that is unusual for your departure or destination airport, that constitutes an extraordinary circumstance that is beyond the airline's control, and no compensation is owed under EC 261/2004.
Next select if you want cash or a voucher. We always recommend selecting cash, even though it's a lower amount than a voucher; for example, our choice was between EUR 250 cash or a non-refundable credit of EUR 350 for another Air France flight. Here are the relevant cash amounts required by EC 261/2004 when your flight arrives 3+ hours after the originally scheduled arrival time:
Flight of <1500 km: 250 EUR
Flight within the EU >1500 km; OR any flight >1500 km but <3500 km: 400 EUR
Flight not within the EU >3500 km: 600 EUR
If you know you'll be flying Air France again soon, you could instead opt for the higher voucher amount; see Air France's Passenger Rights page for more details:
- Flights up to 1,500 km: *€350
- Flights within the EU of more than 1,500 km, and all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km: *€500
- Flights not falling under A or B with a delay beyond 4h: *€800
You'll then be prompted for your message (describe your flight, the 3+ hour delay, the reason given for the delay (should not be Air Traffic Control or extraordinary weather at either your departure or arrival airport or another extraordinary circumstance that disqualifies you from EC 261 compensation), personal details, and bank details if you selected cash compensation.
What About Mechanical Problems?
Air France and other European airlines used to avoid paying EC 261/2004 compensation by claiming that mechanical problems were not foreseeable, citing Article 5, Paragraph 3 “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.”
Over the past few years, however, European Court of Justice cases have clearly stated that mechanical issues are NOT an extraordinary circumstance:
“Article 5(3) of Regulation No 261/2004 must be interpreted as meaning that a technical problem in an aircraft which leads to the cancellation or delay of a flight is not covered by the concept of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ within the meaning of that provision, unless that problem stems from events which, by their nature or origin, are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned and are beyond its actual control.” (Paragraph 34, Friederike Wallentin-Hermann v. Alitalia, also cited by Sturgeon v. Condor and Bock v. Air France
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