Reader Question: United Airlines Flight Cancellation From Rome – What Are Rights?

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A LoyaltyLobby reader sent me a question regarding a United Airlines flight cancellation out of Rome the other day.

reader-question-united-airlines-flight-cancellation-from-rome-what-are-rights

Remember that you can always email me, send a message via Facebook or use Twitter and include photos too. I’ll try to cover Reader Questions & Comments here several times a week.

Here’s the email from the reader:

I hope this email finds you well. I would like your opinion on what compensation is for a situation that happened to my son, Andrew traveling on an United award ticket on subject flight.

Flight United Flight 41 FCO->EWR

5Nov2016

Traveling Business class saver award, return leg using miles from my account.

My son arrived at FCO around 6:15AM for a 8:55AM departure on the 5th of November. At about 8AM the agent started saying over the loudspeaker that the flight would be delayed till 11AM for mechanical issues. Although the gate agent kept hinting to my son throughtout that there was probably a 90% chance of this flight being cancelled. At 11AM the agent over the loudspeaker officially stated that the flight was officially cancelled. From the first moment my son was calling me with what the gate agent was hinting at (cancellation) I started to call United to see if my son could get rebooked elsewhere. At customs my son was told that he only had 12 hours left to be in the country as he was almost to the 90 days allowed without a visa. I told the 3 united representatives that he had to leave the country because of the visa situation, but they would not do anything.

After the flight was cancelled there were no agents around to tell my son what to do or where to go. He was able to talk the gate agent about the visa situation but they would not do anything. My son did not want to leave the airport because of this situation.

He was told to go to baggage claim and pick up his bags where he was handed a paper in Italian that he could not understand but he did manage to understand that they were to go to the Hilton Rome for the night as everybody was heading that way. My son was unsure if he would have to pay and then get reimbursed or what was happening as there was no United representative either at the airport (all Alitalia employees) nor at the hotel to say what they would get or not. Would they get meals or not? What could they charge? or ask for?

In the mean time I was calling United to rebook him on different flights out of the country for the visa issue. I called and spoke to 5 reps and not a one could find anything. 2 would put me on lengthy holds only to drop my call before coming back. All in all I spoke with United an additional 8 times including the original times. I would spend the entire night calling different reps.

Finally I managed to get somebody but they could only rebook him for the following day but on economy seating and would “waive the charge” for economy plus.

Another call got me a business class from FCO->EWR but still economy to LAX the final destination and only an hour and 20 minute connection to his final destination. One more call and I was able to get my son on business to LAX.

He is not home yet and is currently in EWR and is slated to return home tonight which would put his delay at exactly 24 hours if the flight arrives on time.

What and how would you ask for compensation?

What is usual compensation with these circumstances to ask for? I did get a “We’re sorry” email for some token but I have yet to fill it out. Should I fill it out? Will it hurt my chances of getting some real compensation?

The paper that was handed out to the reader’s son should have been the communication about EC 261/2004 passenger rights and what community carriers and airlines flying out form European Union are required to do in case of delays and cancellations.

1. They should have rebooked the affected passenger at the earliest possible connection to their final destination. This means that not the most convenient for United but rather the passenger. The fact that in this case it was an award ticket makes no difference. United Airlines should have rebooked the reader’s son on any direct or connecting flight regardless of the airline to his final destination.

2. United Airlines is also required to provide care that in case of long delays means hotel accommodation, meals and phone card/waived phone fee. Seems that United did provide this.

3. In case that that reader’s son was delayed arriving to his final destination more than 3 hours late in case of a flight of this distance he is also eligible for 600 euro cash compensation. No miles, no certificate funny money but CASH.

The reader should contact United Airlines and request 600 euro cash compensation per EC 261/2004 legislation. He should only accept cash (i.e. a check from United for the equivalent amount in US currency, approximately $662 USD at today’s exchange rate) and perhaps some additional miles for United failing to comply with the legislation when it came to rebooking requirement.

Conclusion

We have covered the EC 261/2004 legislation numerous times here on LoyaltyLobby by using examples like the one above.

You have to remember that this legislation applies to community carriers’ (EU + Switzerland, Norway + Iceland) flights to/from European Union + the other three countries mentioned. It, however, applies to ALL flights from the same area including those by airlines from the United States.

The airlines usually conveniently forget to inform passengers of their rights and often first falsely deny their compensation claims by claiming “mechanical” reasons that are not extraordinary circumstances per EU court rulings.

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  • Winnie

    We were taken for a nice ride by UA for a similar issue last year. I wish I’d known all this when my daughter’s flight from PSP to SFO was canceled, causing her to miss her SFO-SIN connection. There were no seats available on SFO-SIN the next day, so she was rerouted LAX-SIN and we spent $ for her to spend the night at a Marriott near PSP and then take a $300 cab ride to LAX. To rub salt in the wound, the UA agents at PSP refused to talk to me on the (my daughter’s) phone even though the UA 1800 number folks said the airport agents would arrange a hotel, etc. They told her she could sleep on the airport floor for all they cared and that it wasn’t their fault there was a weather delay (it was bright sunshine, but apparently the aircraft was flying in from Minnesota). After it was all over, I complained to UA and they gave 5K miles. I wish I’d known about EU261/2004 … UA really took advantage of us. This reader is smart to be asking for your advice, John.

    • The EC 261/2004 doesn’t apply here. Do get the cab and hotel receipts together and send them to United. If they deny, open a case with DOT too (https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/file-consumer-complaint) and lastly you can take United to the Small Claims COurt for the expenses incurred.

      US should have better consumer protection when it comes to delays and cancellations like in Europe.

      • Winnie

        thanks

    • Flyboy

      Hi Winnie – EU261/2004 only applies to European airlines, and non European airlines (eg UA) flying from Europe .. In fact if the cancellation happened from the USA, the EU261/2004 does not apply for non – European airlines (eg UA).

      • The flight in question is from FCO and regulation applies to any flight by EU airlines or flights originating in the EU by any airline. As this flight is departing the EU and distance/delay requirements are met, EU261/2004 does apply, regardless of carrier, and he has a right to full cash comp as stated by John… If the inbound from US caused the delay, that is irrelevant….

  • J

    EU261/2004 doesn’t apply in that situation Winnie….

    • Winnie

      So what would have been the best solution in our situation?

  • Flyboy

    Bad as it is, UA could have rerouted Andrew to the UK where it is outside of Schengen and therefore his 90 days maximum stay and had to get out that day would be recognised.