Published On: Tue, Jul 17th, 2018

Record year for flight delays: Airlines already owe millions to US travelers

flight-delaysMany air travelers will be able to get back some of the airlines costs they spent on the 2018 summer vacation season. According to new analysis and statistics published by AirHelp, the first six months of 2018 have seen severe flight disruptions double and in some countries triple, compared to the same period in 2017.

AirHelp analysts have discovered that an estimated 415,800 U.S. air passengers have experienced a flight delay, cancellation or airline overbooking during the period of January 1 – June 30, 2018, and the total amount of money owed for this period in the United States is more than $292 million.

During the same time period last year, approximately 260,900 U.S. air passengers experienced severe flight disruptions, and may be entitled to compensation according to EU law EC261. AirHelp reports an approximate 60% increase in the number of U.S. air passengers entitled to compensation this year, and the increase of air passengers owed compensation is also significantly higher in many countries around the world.

The massive increase of flight disruption compensation owed is due to many different factors, one being a ruling made by the ECJ earlier this year which established that strikes among airline staff can no longer be considered extraordinary circumstances which would free the airline from being held responsible for strikes, and from its legal obligation to make it up to passengers.

In addition to the first six months of 2018 being characterized by very high levels of flight disruptions, AirHelp has identified many other factors that have played a part in putting holiday travels at risk.

In early June, the International Air Transport Association reduced its 2018 profit forecast by 12%, blaming rising fuel and labor costs. Air carriers including American Airlines, Delta and United are already announcing that passengers should prepare for higher ticket prices. As if this was not enough, the industry lacks new pilots. The shortage of pilots has caused many planes to stay on the ground, and labor unions to raise their voices against overworked staff. Last but not least, the phenomenon of “overtourism” challenges airports’ capacities.

Additionally, airlines such as Emirates and Qantas Airways are focusing on hiring due to an industry-wide lack of pilots. Therefore, both companies have struggled in recent months to use their planes as often as they planned because of delays in recruiting and training new staff. Boeing estimates the demand to be 637,000 more pilots over the next 20 years. The airlines claim that they are facing more financial stress and risking their profits, also due to higher pay for pilots in a time of rising fuel prices.

Meanwhile, labor unions around the world are continuing to push for more pilot benefits. Ryanair pilots are forming labor unions across Europe, hoping to fight for better working conditions, and Air France pilots are striking over pay. As argued by airlines, this is another significant factor for higher travel costs for air passengers this summer.

Overtourism

There is a third reason why our summer holiday dreams might turn into nightmares – the historically high demand for vacation travel. Increased numbers of people traveling leads to a situation where the top 10 destinations in the world (which today host 46% of international arrivals) will have to accommodate 70 million more tourists in the space of just 3 years.

Following this, besides fuel prices and lack of pilots, the industry faces one more major issue – insufficient airport capacity, which might lead to a significant increase in flight disruptions this summer.

In line with the law, airlines need to compensate travelers for flight disruptions, and all the hassles they brings. This is why AirHelp was created five years ago, and the company will continue to work tirelessly to help travelers get the compensation that is rightfully theirs and support them throughout their flight disruptions. The law is the law and it must be respected.

Flight disruptions: These are passengers’ rights

For delayed or canceled flights, and in instances of denied boarding, passengers may be entitled to financial compensation of up to $700 per person in certain circumstances. The conditions for this stipulate that the departure airport must be within the EU, or the airline carrier must be based in the EU and landing in the EU. What’s more, the reason for the flight delay must be caused by the airline. Compensation may be claimed within three years of the disrupted flight.

In situations deemed “extraordinary circumstances” such storms or medical emergencies, the operating airline is exempt from the obligation to compensate passengers. In other words, “extraordinary circumstances” do not qualify for flight compensation.

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