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Family Holiday - Cancellations, Delays, Missed connections, choosing not to fly.

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Family Holiday - Cancellations, Delays, Missed connections, choosing not to fly.

edited 30 November -1 at 12:00AM in Flight Delay Compensation
21 replies 3.3K views
EvaLewisEvaLewis Forumite
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edited 30 November -1 at 12:00AM in Flight Delay Compensation
Hi all,

Not sure where to start.

It's a long story but we're looking for some expert advice on a recent trip to the US. We were flying to Los Angeles (returning from Las Vegas) for my brother-in-laws wedding - myself, my wife and the two kids (6 + 2, the youngest has a genetic condition and is classed as disabled as he cannot walk). To say we encountered several flight issues along the way is a bit of an understatement - I will do my best to briefly summarise.

Background
We booked with KLM directly, flying Glasgow to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Los Angeles at 9am on Friday 23rd, returning Los Angeles to Manchester (on a Virgin Atlantic flight), Manchester to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Glasgow on the 1st September. The return trip came out much cheaper when we took the extra two flights to get back to Glasgow rather than ending the journey in Manchester and driving back to Glasgow. Due to the fact it was a family holiday and our son's condition we had paid extra for seat selection (£22.80 each on the Amsterdam to LA flight) on our flights and we had spoken to KLM regarding special assistance boarding - they were helpful with this and it was added to the booking.

Our problems began when on Wednesday 21st at 12.24pm when KLM cancelled our flights out - I believe due to a time change on the Amsterdam to Los Angeles flight meaning the Glasgow flight wouldn't connect with it. I received emails and texts saying that the flight was cancelled and myself, my wife and my daughter had been booked on a replacement flight via Dublin (on Air Lingus). Arriving 3 hours later than the original. My 2 year old disabled son however, had been booked himself via Amsterdam on a later flight - he had also been allocated a new booking reference number, removing him from our party, something which was to go on to give us massive headaches at several stages of the journey.

Wednesday afternoon involved several phone calls to KLM, totalling more than 4 hours trying to get travel for the 4 of us together - the first call was infuriating, I spent some time explaining that there was four people in the party, the agent kept insisting there was only 3, despite the fact they had removed one of the party. The agent even tried to fob me off by telling me my two kids would be on the same ticket despite the fact both had paid tickets. It was only when I realised that my son had a new booking reference number on his separate flight that I was able to help them understand and proceed. There was no apologies and no acknowledgement that sending a 2 year year old on a flight himself was absurd. I also requested on several occasions that he be added back onto group, to which I was told this was not possible but the reference numbers would be 'linked'.

Eventually the best we could get was two United flights (Glasgow to Newark, Newark to LA), landing about 4 hours after our original flights. Throughout the process I'd requested on several occasions for seats together but after the confirmations came through the agent told me United didn't give seat numbers but we would be together as we had kids. Having ended the call and getting the confirmations we were straight onto United, quickly finding out that of course they did but there were no seats left together. The United agent on the phone was quite helpful and managed to get us two pairs of seats together so each child could be accompanied which was better than nothing and 4 seats together on the Newark - LA flight.

Flight Out
The Glasgow to Newark flight ended up being over 3 hours late leaving Glasgow and was held from disembarking for another half hour at Newark due to a medical emergency on another flight. This, and the incredibly long ques at Newark airport border control, meant we missed the connecting flight. After much stress at Newark airport we eventually got re-booked on a later flight to LA, however we were told seat numbers would be allocated at the gate. We had a dash from one terminal to the other, making the flight with only minutes to spare, again we had to make do with seats as two and two which was quite distressing for the kids, who were very tired by this point, and operationally quite difficult to manage for the parents! To make matters worse, most of the passengers had boarded the plane already and had already been allocated the same seats as us - more stress, eventually the cabin crew sorted it out.

The flight was held on the tarmac for another hour delay - we eventually got to LA at 10.30pm local time, 8 hours after or original booking time and 5 hours after the re-booking time.

Return Flight
On arrival at Virgin Atlantic check in it became clear that our son not being in our booking party was a problem, the agent said the system wouldn't let him check him in as he was down as a minor on his own - we did find it rather ironic that someone had finally understood that! After a half hour wait at this stage we eventually got him onto the flight with us in the original pre-booked seats (4 together) - a win! The agent did however tell us he couldn't get him boarding passes for the ongoing flights due to the booking reference issue.

On arrival at Manchester we travelled through the transfer area and onto the terminal for the Amsterdam flight. By this point we'd started getting notification about delay to the Amsterdam flight due to a strike at the airport. We had a 2.5 hour connection which was gradually getting shorter and shorter. We still hadn't been given boarding passes for my son so we were also stressing about the seating situation - the information desk had told us they would bring us his passes prior to departure but they were very short staffed and couldn't do it there and then (there was no way to get to a KLM desk from the terminal we transferred in to).

As the delay on the inbound flight increased the connection window dropped to about 35 mins, we spoke a few times with the information desk as we didn't want to spend a night in Amsterdam with two very tired kids. They informed us that KLM wouldn't deem it a 'missed connection' until the connection window dropped below 30 mins but that the later Amsterdam - Glasgow flight was full and it was looking like a night in Amsterdam if we missed the connection. At this stage we took the decision to get our bags off the flight and hire a car to drive Manchester to Glasgow - the information desk said we may be entitled to some compensation but probably not the full compensation as we hadn't yet missed the connection. The flight eventually left with a further delay (not due our bags I should add! !!) and eventually landed in Amsterdam 20 mins before the Glasgow flight departed. My in-laws were on the Amsterdam-Glasgow flight (travelled back a different route) and they said it actually departed 5 mins early and that it was a full flight (probably not relevant but KLM managed to re-allocate our seats).

Questions:
1. Obviously we want to claim against KLM for the original flight out being cancelled at less than 48 hours notice. Seems pretty clear cut to me, is there anything I need to consider?
2. For the re-scheduled flight out being 4 hours late, could this be another claim? If so is it against (KLM or United)?
3. Is it worth claiming on travel insurance, we lost over 8 hours in time? We would've arrived in LA at 14.30, we actually arrived 22.30.
4. On return, can we claim for the assumed missed connection on the return flight, be re-reimbursed for the flights we didn't take or claim the expense of the hire car? Obviously we made the decision ourselves but we've documented the departure time, the time it actually landed in Amsterdam and feel that it's pretty clear we wouldn't have made it.
5. Has anyone been able to re-claim paid 'seat selection' and baggage costs from KLM? I tried to do it over the phone at the time and got no-where with them, they said they couldn't do it?
6. I'd like to complain to KLM about my disabled 2 year old being re-booked to fly himself and given a separate booking. Not to enhance a claim but because I feel I need to get it off my chest. The request for special assistance was lost at every stage, trying to arrange seating was a nightmare as the airlines treated him as a separate passenger, every phone call and every time we tried to check details online we had to switch between two different booking references. Any advice on complaining alongside a claim? Can I tag that to a claim onto a compliant or would the complaint be separate process.

Any replies would be greatly appreciated - many thanks for reading :)
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Replies

  • JPearsJPears Forumite
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    Wow thats a miserable journey there and back!
    I would apear you have many claims! Myself and others will digest and get back to you.
    If you're new. read The FAQ and Vauban's Guide

    The alleged Ringleader.........
  • edited 4 September 2019 at 4:56PM
    TyzapTyzap Forumite
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    edited 4 September 2019 at 4:56PM
    Hi EvaLewis,

    What a nightmare journey, you have my sympathy.

    Some parts are quite clear cut, others complicated, so we'll start with the clear cut.

    The outward cancellation is a clear cut compensation of €600 p/p, so claim EU261 compo via KLM's website.

    The second delay via United gets slightly more complicated. As you arrived at your final destination over 4 hours late you could be due another €600 p/p. However, if United claimed successfully that part of the delay, the bit due to a medical emergency, was an 'extraordinary circumstance (EC) you may only be due to 50% of the compensation i.e €300 p/p. I suggest you claim the full €600 p/p from United and see what they say.

    Check what the minimum transfer time is at Amsterdam airport. If you were unable to make the connection in the allocated time I don't feel KLM could say you should have travelled to Amsterdam with a disabled two year old just to get trapped overnight. Regardless of the fact that they had already bumped you off the fight to Glasgow. In which case, claim compensation from KLM for that flight too. The rate of compo depends upon the booking conditions. Was the return journey via Virgin and KLM all one booking via a partnership agreement? If so it's €600 p/p, if not, i.e separate bookings, it's €250 p/p.

    I would also claim that as KLM did not re-route you, you had to do that yourselves. Given the time, the exhausted children, a disabled child and the lack of support from KLM the only realistic option was car hire or the train, so claim that cost from KLM, along with any meals, drinks and other travel costs incurred that you still have receipts for.

    Regarding the awful customer service. The regulations stipulate that less abled passengers should be given some priority, that obviously did not happen where KLM were concerned! If this was to end up in court you would probably get a very sympathetic hearing from the judge. Other than a letter of complaint to KLM, there is little else you can realistically do.

    Phew, I may have missed something so I'll have another read and consideration tomorrow.

    Good luck.
    Please read Vaubans superb guide. To find it Google and then download 'vaubans guide'.
  • JPearsJPears Forumite
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    I think Tyzap has very succinctly covered everything.
    The expenses claim is usualy a separate claim/webform than the compensation.

    Please keep us updated. This is an interesting case (unfortuntely for you and your family!)
    If you're new. read The FAQ and Vauban's Guide

    The alleged Ringleader.........
  • EvaLewisEvaLewis Forumite
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    Many thanks for the replies Tyzap and Jpears.

    On point 2, I've checked the United flight details and it departed Glasgow 3hrs 28mins late, then the medical emergency at Newark extended this to 4hrs 9mins. I will put the claim in for full amount and see what they say. The missed connection it caused, and the subsequent delay to the Newark to LA flight got us into LA at 22.18, 4hrs 19mins after the first replacement flight was due in and nearly 8 hrs later than the original KLM flight.

    On the return I've checked the Amsterdam airport transfer time and it advises 40mins for European flights. I've also checked the time out Manchester to Amsterdam flight landed and it was only 10 mins before the Glasgow flight took off. I'm hoping this gives us a pretty strong case that we were right to assume the missed connection. I will also put the expenses claim in for the rental car separately.

    Many thanks - I will get the claims in today and keep you posted.
  • JPearsJPears Forumite
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    I've changed about half a dozen times at Schipol. 40 minutes (from experience) is very tight conection for such large, very busy airport.
    Our luggage didn't make it even they we did by just a few minutes.
    If you're new. read The FAQ and Vauban's Guide

    The alleged Ringleader.........
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  • EvaLewisEvaLewis Forumite
    11 posts
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    The two KLM claims and one United claim are now in.
    I have also claimed expenses from KLM for car hire and refreshments, along with the cost of pre-booked seats and baggage.

    I have also complained to KLM separately to the claims for their handling of the situation and for booking a 2 year old who required special assistance on a flight on his own and how much of a headache removing him from our booking party caused, although 4,500 characters was no-where near enough to tell the full story!

    On researching our claims we found that the return flight delay was potentially caused by earlier in the day (6am-8am GMT) strike action by ground staff at Amsterdam airport on Monday - our flight was due to leave Manchester 11.10am. I did read that delays due to industrial action can excuse airlines from compensation but my understanding is that as our flight was outwith the strike period and that extraordinary circumstances from previous flights don't create extraordinary circumstances on the following flights, this shouldn't effect our claim? Am I correct with that?
  • JPearsJPears Forumite
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    Most likely correct. As you say knock on. Ground staff are a thrid party subcontracted by klm, so not an EC
    If you're new. read The FAQ and Vauban's Guide

    The alleged Ringleader.........
  • EvaLewisEvaLewis Forumite
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    Hi all,

    We've had a rejection from United claiming 'inclement weather' outwith their control affected a number of their flights that day.

    It was a fine day in Glasgow that morning - blue sky, no rain and a very gentle breeze - the historic weather forecasts confirm this. We were told by the cabin crew that the delay was due to a medical emergency on the inbound flight (someone had taken a sleeping pill and become unresponsive) and then a technical issue with the plane while in Glasgow.

    Is it worth arguing the point via email with United or should we move onto the CAA at this stage?

    And is there anything to consider when disputing 'inclement weather' - I had a quick look on the forums and couldn't see much on flight delays due to weather.

    Many thanks in advance.
  • JPearsJPears Forumite
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    I would send another email/message to United, outlining your points. Mark it as an NBA/LBA give them 14 days to pay.
    Then refer to CAA as United are not signed up to an ADR.
    Doing the above allows you to go forward without hindrance on legal action if the CAA do nothing. Which is likely.
    If you're new. read The FAQ and Vauban's Guide

    The alleged Ringleader.........
  • TyzapTyzap Forumite
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    EvaLewis wrote: »
    Hi all,

    We've had a rejection from United claiming 'inclement weather' outwith their control affected a number of their flights that day.

    It was a fine day in Glasgow that morning - blue sky, no rain and a very gentle breeze - the historic weather forecasts confirm this. We were told by the cabin crew that the delay was due to a medical emergency on the inbound flight (someone had taken a sleeping pill and become unresponsive) and then a technical issue with the plane while in Glasgow.

    Is it worth arguing the point via email with United or should we move onto the CAA at this stage?

    And is there anything to consider when disputing 'inclement weather' - I had a quick look on the forums and couldn't see much on flight delays due to weather.

    Many thanks in advance.

    Point out to the CAA that your flight was not directly affected by poor weather, or a medical problem but there was a technical issue.

    Weather problems els-where in their fleet have no connection to your flight.

    Good luck.
    Please read Vaubans superb guide. To find it Google and then download 'vaubans guide'.
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