The Other View on Compo Claims

edited 22 September 2014 at 7:15AM in Flight Delay Compensation
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SpannerMonkeySpannerMonkey Forumite
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edited 22 September 2014 at 7:15AM in Flight Delay Compensation
I am an aircraft engineer and I work for an airline. My views however, are my own.

I want to give you some of the thoughts from the other side, and open some of your eyes to the reality of what you are doing.
I appreciate that many people feel anger when delayed, and I agree that ALL airlines should show care to their customers in these circumstances, but reflect for a moment on why you've been delayed. Also consider that the airline doesn't need the delay and does want to get you back on time; every delay causes serious headaches, and not just because of the inevitable compo claims. Crew duty times suffer, maintenance scheduling suffers, and the knock-on effects of these cause further problems
Often a delay is down to a technical issue which is where myself and my colleaugues come into the equation.

Ask yourself these questions:
1.Do you want to fly at 35000 ft in a machine that has something seriously wrong with it?
2.Do you want airlines to start taking a chance that it'll 'probably be ok' just to get you off the ground on time?
3.When your car breaks down the week after you had it serviced, is it your fault that a component malfunctioned because you didn't guess it would and had it replaced before it did?

You can believe me when I say that all aircraft have rigourous maintenance schedules, operators have learned through bitter experience to be double-safe, and then safer still. Effort and money goes into that. But still, like your car, things can and will just fail. And when they do, despite knowing that the compo claims are going to flood in, the airline shows the integrity required to say 'No, it's broken and we won't fly it again until it's fixed.'

So, what are the airlines doing to counter the problem of tech failures if they're going to get spanked by you via the courts when it happens?
They are changing lots more components on a life-used basis, so even if it's not broken they are replaced regardless. Bear in mind that this has always been done with many critical components anyway, however, to counter the compo culture it's being massively expanded.

Now think about the sucking noise your mechanic makes when you ask him what it's going to cost to replace the cambelt on your car. Think about how much that is multiplied for aircraft parts (it's truly hideous, trust me), and finally, think about who is eventually going to meet that cost ...yep, it's YOU!

You think the airlines are going to fund it when you're scooting across Europe for £10 anyway?? Dream on! If you're claiming simply because you can, you are ultimately making your own holidays and flights more expensive.

I do agree there are cases where you should be compensated, but ask yourself before you fill in the form, if you feel morally right in doing so in that particular instance.

Bear in mind a wider issue. Do you REALLY think that the EU parliament cares about your delay SO much that they want you to be compensated? So, if not, why would the EU introduce legislation to potentially drive the low cost and affordable carriers into the ground - who ultimately benefits from that? Time to get your heads out of the sand.

Just my two penn'orth!
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Replies

  • VaubanVauban Forumite
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    It's a great post SpannerMonkey, and I thank you for putting the "other side"'s case so clearly. I disagree with your overall conclusions for the following reasons.

    1. Whilst no airline wants delays (for the reasons you identify) it's clear to me that, in all the considerations of their response, the interests of their passengers are de-prioritised. The pressure to keep costs down means a number of airlines lack the ability to respond quickly, or have no redundancy in their fleet, to pick up the slack. (Indeed, some even try to make a virtue of this - in their defence in my case, Monarch pleaded that as they were a small airline, it was unreasonable to expect them to act speedily to address the inconvenience.)

    2. I do not want safety before punctuality, no more than I want pensioners to have food instead of warmth over the winter. It is reasonable, as a paying passenger, to expect both. And if you look at the punctuality records of different airlines, you'll note that these differ quite substantially. Here's the CAA stats from 2012 for the route involved in my own delay (Gatwick to Sharm el Sheikh), and the differences between Monarch and easyJet:

    easyJet: 83% on time, 1.7% over 1 hour late, 0.3% over 3 hours late;
    Monarch: 64% on time, 14.4% over 1 hour late, 4% over 3 hours late.

    In other words, 1 in 20 Monarch planes was delayed on this route compared to 1 in 300 easyJet planes: a massive difference in reliability. And if Monarch can't get their performance up to easyJet's, why shouldn't passengers be compensated for this poor performance? Too many airlines have not put in the systems and investment to minimise delays, simply assuming that the passengers will suck it up. That's why the Regulations were introduced since, as an industry, you were failing your customers.

    3. You ask whether "When your car breaks down the week after you had it serviced, is it your fault that a component malfunctioned because you didn't guess it would and had it replaced before it did?" No: it would not be my fault, but it would be my responsibility. Even those of us who maintain our cars regularly know we also need to put in place proper contingency plans, anticipating that things may still go wrong (that's why we have breakdown cover). Just because the failure of a specific part could not be predicted, it doesn't mean it is generally unexpected - and that proper provision should be made to fix it when it goes wrong. That's not just me who believes that, incidentally: that's the opinion of the Court of Appeal as well.

    4. You are, of course, right that the costs you identify in improving airline resilience will ultimately be passed onto the customer. The compensation isn't "free", obviously. But the costs of the compensation and care have been calculated to be fairly small for most airlines (the Commission undertook an economic study - and it's a couple of pounds on the ticket). And if airlines are properly incentivised to invest in their fleet, they may even save money in the long term (as they won't be paying out as much compensation).

    5. And my last point doesn't really address yours directly, but it is worth reiterating: it's the law. You can disagree with it, of course, but airlines have to adhere. Except they don't: as this forum makes abundantly clear, they lie, they mislead, they obsfucate and they make it very difficult for people to claim their statutory rights. To be honest, if my employer acted with such a lack of integrity, I'd be rather ashamed.
  • edited 21 September 2014 at 2:06PM
    SpannerMonkeySpannerMonkey Forumite
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    edited 21 September 2014 at 2:06PM
    I wouldn't disagree with some of your points Vauban, and it has to be said that EU261 has changed a lot of industry attitudes for the better.

    In answer to your points:

    1. Some airlines now run with spare aircraft, but that won't stop them being spanked if they can't put the spare in place quickly enough; a tech issue in Sharm being a good example.
    Some do strive to keep costs down, which is basically the reason that the rank and file can 'do' Ibiza, Budapest & 101 other Euro cities, holiday in the Canaries and hold stag/hen parties in Palma. People now expect 5 star treatment at knock-down prices. It has to give somewhere. I don't see EU261 acknowledging that.

    2.I think that food and warmth are needs, as is safety in this instance. I don't see punctuality as a 'need' though.
    Comparing airline punctuality means nothing really, because most of what you're looking at is whether or not the tech support people in the UK can talk the crew into bringing the the airplane back with a snag on it. Aircraft can and do legally fly with certain faults, as long as they're fixed in a certain timeframe - there's a book full of permissions for it. The interpretation of those 'allowable' faults are what's at question here, No airlines planes are more reliable than anyone else's.
    I don't want to talk too much about this subject to be honest, because I know the truth behind it. Suffice to say that my employer (of whom I am not ashamed) does not expect a casual attitude in this regard from it's own engineers. Enough said.
    Monarch, btw, will go out of business if they don't find a buyer soon.

    3. I take your point about contingency, my airline holds a huge amount of spares for that very reason, again it's a vast cost that has to be met. The delay problems occur when the aircraft goes tech down-route - a spare usually has to be flown to it, and maybe an engineer too.

    Both you & the Courts are wrong about unexpected failures - many parts, particularly electronics, are replaced 'on defect' ie when they go wrong, simply because you can't predict an electrical component failure. However, they do have mean-life cycles, and the sensible airlines take note of that and change them when those cycles expire. It will never stop the unexpected failures though.
    To say that the Courts agree about equipment failures not being an extraordinary circumstance means nothing. Exactly what experience does your average judge have of the realities of what we do every day? They are removed from the cold, hard world we all exist in, making judgements based on convoluted arguments presented by clever-clever ambulance chasers, who can make it look completely fair to expect any one of thousands of component to be replaced at the drop of a hat (whilst lining their own pockets, obviously.)
    If the rationale is that the law is the law and we must obey it, then fair enough; but a just law? I think not.

    4. I accept that it's only a few quid per seat, but correct me, is this forum not entitled Money Saving Expert?? It seems to me that the rank and file are expected to stump up extra to ensure that the few get a compensated far beyond what they have paid.
    I believe the view is that if the compensation was more fairly assessed the airlines would be far more likely to pay out rather than fight it in court. How can a sum far in excess of the seat cost be right?

    On the whole, there are good things happening off the back of this, airlines are driven to provide an improved service. What inspired my original post was the 'compensation at any cost' attitude of some of the posters on here, that and the bragging about getting more back than they paid out.
  • VaubanVauban Forumite
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    Some quick responses - though I am not an engineer (nor a lawyer) and thus have no professional qualifications in this regard. I am though a consumer who understands my legal rights.
    1. Some airlines now run with spare aircraft, but that won't stop them being spanked if they can't put the spare in place quickly enough; a tech issue in Sharm being a good example.

    Yes. I can see that. (Though in my case the technical failure to the aircraft - a pilot LH windscreen cracking on the ground - happened in Gatwick. Monarch had no provision to fix it - had to send the parts by taxi from Luton, and borrow equipment from Virgin. And it apparently took 24 hours to fix.)
    2.I think that food and warmth are needs, as is safety in this instance. I don't see punctuality as a 'need' though.
    I am afraid that I value my time more than you evidently do! And that's what the Regulation compensates for - quite explicitly: it's not a refund of the ticket, but it is compensation for the time lost to the passengers due to the airline's inability to run a punctual service. The loss of time - and thus the compensation - bears no relation to the price of the ticket bought. Whether in First or Economy, our time is equally precious.
    3. I take your point about contingency, my airline holds a huge amount of spares for that very reason, again it's a vast cost that has to be met. The delay problems occur when the aircraft goes tech down-route - a spare usually has to be flown to it, and maybe an engineer too.
    Yes. It sounds like your airline takes these matters rather more seriously than Monarch airlines did. As I prepared for my case, I consulted with aviation engineers who made precisely the point that you did: that even "on condition" parts have an expected service life, and one can minimise service interruptions by planning scheduled replacements. In my case however the Monarch engineer, who was summoned as a witness, said he disagreed with this assessment. That the service life of a windscreen bore no relation to the likelihood of its failure. And he could not in fact say how old the windscreen that failed actually was. I didn't find this particularly convincing, and nor I think did the judge.
    To say that the Courts agree about equipment failures not being an extraordinary circumstance means nothing. Exactly what experience does your average judge have of the realities of what we do every day?
    With respect, the Courts are the experts on this, since it is their responsibility to interpret the law. Your argument is with the law as drafted, I suspect, rather than as it has (correctly) be clarified by the Court of Appeal.

    4. I believe the view is that if the compensation was more fairly assessed the airlines would be far more likely to pay out rather than fight it in court. How can a sum far in excess of the seat cost be right?
    I've addressed this last point earlier. But I remain sceptical about whether the airlines would pay compensation if they thought it fairer. In any case, it's not discretionary; they don't get to opt out. And if the airlines spent less money defending (and generally losing) these cases in court - Monarch hired two London barristers for my case, before throwing in the towel - there would be rather more money for other things (perhaps cheaper tickets, an improved service and even a salary rise for their long-suffering staff!).
  • edited 21 September 2014 at 3:01PM
    richardwrichardw Forumite
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    edited 21 September 2014 at 3:01PM
    easyJet and Ryanair are very profitable and have recently ordered lots more aircraft, they have confidence in the future profitability of their businesses, despite what the Supreme Court may/may not yet say on Dawson and Huzar.

    Fares in their businesses have no direct correlation to 'actual costs', the don't operate capped fares, they're allowed to oversell more seats than are actually on the aircraft, so this is where your argument fails. If the demand is there for good revenues, they'll continue to operate.
    Posts are not advice and must not be relied upon.
  • Well, I've said my bit.

    As a nation we've inherited the Yank culture of claiming compensation because our 'human rights' have been infringed.

    May the Good Lord help the Highways Agency once claiming for being stuck in a traffic jam is granted legal status by the 'experts', and upheld in the Appeal Courts.

    :T
  • jpsartrejpsartre Forumite
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    Airlines crying about having to pay delay compensation is like passengers crying about having to pay for a new ticket if they show up late for their flight or having to pay excess luggage charges when they show up with too much luggage. Passengers who leave plenty of time to get to the airport and build in contingency plans in case they are delayed along the way are unlikely to miss their flight, just like an airline that properly maintains their planes and build in contingency plans if something goes wrong are unlikely to delay their passengers. I don't feel the slightest bit sorry for those that don't.
  • edited 22 September 2014 at 8:49AM
    duchyduchy Forumite
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    edited 22 September 2014 at 8:49AM
    I think it is interesting the comment that the OP saw punctuality as a would be nice rather than an essential.

    I assume (or maybe just hope) they work for a holiday operation rather than a legacy carrier so is exposed to a somewhat different culture. For many frequent flyers time is literally money -although the other side is that holidaymakers value their time away too .

    I used to work in business travel and regardless of if the flight was a short haul hop or long haul the number one reason for choosing one airline over another was punctuality. The account I worked on was a multi national with interests as diverse as finance, aircraft engines, washing machines and haulage amongst others so a pretty good cross section of travellers.

    It didn't matter if the seat was a bit bigger, the food more edible or if the lounge had a train set in it or not - If their journeys were unreasonably in their eyes delayed- they voted with their feet.

    The bottom line is if carriers want to operate in Europe they need to adhere to the law. If this means they need to change some of their processes to catch up with some of the newer carriers (the Easyjet Monarch comparision is a good one- which airline has decades more of operating experience after all) then that just shows they haven't kept up with the changes in the aviation business-and need to -to remain competitive.
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  • duchyduchy Forumite
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    Well, I've said my bit.

    As a nation we've inherited the Yank culture of claiming compensation because our 'human rights' have been infringed.

    May the Good Lord help the Highways Agency once claiming for being stuck in a traffic jam is granted legal status by the 'experts', and upheld in the Appeal Courts.

    :T

    Oh dear
    Why when faced with logic do you need to fall back on the "Human Rights" defence instead of addressing the points made ?

    There is an interesting discussion to be had - but apparently not by you. What a shame.
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  • JPearsJPears Forumite
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    The OP must have anticipated getting flamed on this thread but I think most have been quite tame so far.
    My main contention with the point of view put forward by the OP is the intent of the EU in setting this regulation to reduce the inconvenience to the consumer of delays, denied boarding and cancellations. Whilst the delays, may to some be slightly contentious, denied boarding and cancellation far less so.
    These cause massive problems to travellers with other bookings and reservations.
    The regulation has been in existance since 2004, established law since 2005, yet the airlines have singualrly failed to address their problems, business models and attitude to the whole problem over the past 10 years.
    And still they continue to bleat how unfair it all is.
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  • Just a quickie, because I have to work to ensure prompt departures!

    I will respond in due course to any comments made on this thread, I've read them briefly this morning and can create a cogent argument against all of them. However, my life doesn't hinge on it.

    I will say now though that I won't be on here to be sniped at by individuals assuming the intellectual high-ground, when in reality a lot of these claims are morally bankrupt, driven by eyes blinded by ££££ and people are claiming purely by virtue of their 'consumer rights'.

    Remember, just because it's a 'right', it doesn't make it right. Right!!?

    As Arnie once said "I'll be baaack!"
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