I could have made my connecting flight but airberlin made me wait 13 hours

airberlin13
By | November 17th, 2016

Cemal Evran believes she could have made her connection on a recent Airberlin flight from Germany to Kennedy Airport in New York, where she would have changed to an American Airlines flight to Miami.

But she wasn’t given the chance — or the choice.

Her American Airlines flight took off while she was still in the airport because her connecting flight had been rebooked without her knowledge. And she was forced to wait 13 hours in New York for the next flight on Airberlin.

How fair is it to delayed passengers when airlines automatically rebook them on later flights, especially when there’s still a possibility of making their original connections? And do those passengers have any recourse?

For the answer, let’s rewind to the beginning of this story.

It was a sunny day in Berlin when Evran boarded her flight at Berlin Tegel Airport. But the plane took off late and landed at 4:50 p.m., ten minutes before Evran’s American Airlines flight was due to depart.

As soon as the flight landed, Evran was given a paper stating that her connecting flight had been rebooked. Her new flight to Miami was not scheduled to take off until 5:50 a.m. Yet her original connecting flight was still at Kennedy Airport and did not take off until 5:35 p.m. Evran believes that she could have made it onto that flight. (We’ll take her word for it.)

According to Evran, Airberlin’s agents “did not even look for another flight for the same day. They automatically said that since the 5:00 p.m. flight to Miami was going to be missed, she had to wait for the next day at 5:50 a.m. for another flight.”

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So Evran had to spend some 13 hours in New York before she could board a flight to Miami.

Evran emailed a complaint to Airberlin’s customer service. An agent replied with an apology and a 100 euro discount off a future Airberlin flight, good until August 31, 2018. Except that’s not good enough for Evran, who feels that it’s “very unfair for making me wait over 12 hours in New York.”

Evran might have utilized our company contacts for Airberlin to escalate her complaint. Instead, she turned to our advocacy team for assistance. Since Evran paid $1,350 for her round-trip tickets, she believed she should be compensated at least $300 for the rebooking and delay.


Is she right?

Under European Union Rule 261, passengers on delayed flights have the right to assistance:

  • in the event of long delays (two hours or more, depending on the distance of the flight), passengers must in every case be offered free meals and refreshments plus two free telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails;
  • if the time of departure is deferred until the next day, passengers must also be offered hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the place of accommodation;
  • when the delay is five hours or longer, passengers may opt for reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure.

Airberlin’s own terms and conditions provide that

In the event a passenger misses an onward connecting flight on which space has been reserved for him/her because the delivering carrier did not operate its flight according to schedules, or changed the schedule of such flight, the delivering carrier will arrange for the carriage of the passenger or make involuntary refund in accordance with Rule 90 (Refunds) herein.

Although Airberlin rebooked Evran on a connecting flight the next day, it failed to offer her any free meals, refreshments or free telephone calls, emails, or other communications, to which she was entitled during a 13-hour delay. Nor did it offer her a refund in proportion to the value of her ticket. So Airberlin’s treatment of Evran violated EU 261 as well as its own terms and conditions.

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Our advocates reached out to Airberlin on Evran’s behalf. Airberlin ignored our initial contacts. But after Evran filed a complaint with the German authorities, Airberlin offered her a 600 euro refund (approximately $650), which is far better than the 100 euro discount off a future airfare. It demonstrates the efficacy of consumer advocacy.



  • Joe Blasi

    Good thing for EU 261.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Clear EU 261 case. She was owed compensation. She got it.

    That said, the probability of making a domestic to international connection at JFK in 45 minutes is between slim and none, and none just left the building. So the “I could have made my flight” claim is dubious, at best. Rebooking her was the right thing to do.

  • jmtabb

    There’s no way she would have made that flight. She has to clear immigration and customs at JFK (first port of landing). Plus, the departure time for the connecting flight is not the “gate closing time” – the gate closed and they gave away her seat at least 10 minutes before her flight landed.

    An inconvenience for sure, and due EU261 compensation, but thinking she would have made a 10 minute international connection is completely unrealistic.

  • MarkKelling

    The statement that airberlin’s agents “did not even look for another flight for the same day” is not truthful since the last flight of the day out of JFK to MIA is the 5 pm flight she would have missed. The next AA flight was (and is) the 5:50 am flight. Are there flights on other airlines later in the evening? Possibly, but airberlin may not have interline agreements meaning they would not be able to move the OP to one of those flights.

    How long was the initial delay? Was the connection already tight and close to impossible even if everything was on time? (Can’t find anything currently that goes this route to see.) Airberlin did make arrangements to put the OP on the next available flight onward to Miami. I could play lawyer and claim that the initial delay was not long enough to trigger any of the EU 261 clauses and since the connection was on an airline not based in Europe and not flying from Europe that nothing else was owed.

    However, glad that an acceptable arrangement was reached.

  • Pat

    I have to agree that saying could have made her flight is way off. If she landed 10 minutes before her connection departed, she would have never, ever been able make that that fight. The doors would have been closed way before she deplaned. Airberlin did the right thing in booking her on the next available American flight (the days of next flight out regardless of carrier are over). They might have failed in telling her what was available to her because of the missed flight. Considering what she is complaining about, it would not surprise me that she stopped listening when she was told she could not take her scheduled flight and would have to wait until the morning flight (and they probably had to tell her numerous times).

  • MF

    And also illustrates the intransigence of hot-airberlin.

  • Mark

    I’m not sure she did get it. €600 is the amount of compensation she was owed for the delay.

    In addition to this, the airline has an obligation to pay for her meals and overnight accommodation. The article doesn’t make clear whether or not the airline did actually pay for her overnight accommodation – but if not, then that would also be due.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Good point.

  • BubbaJoe123

    “I could play lawyer and claim that the initial delay was not long enough to trigger any of the EU 261 clauses and since the connection was on an airline not based in Europe and not flying from Europe that nothing else was owed.”

    If you’re going to play lawyer, look at the law first. European Court of Justice was very clear on this:

    “in the case of directly connecting flights, the fixed compensation must be determined according to the delay beyond the scheduled time of arrival at the final destination, understood as the destination of the last flight taken by the passenger concerned.”

    http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_CJE-13-18_en.htm

    What matters is how delayed you are getting to your end destination. If you’re more than 3 hours late getting to your end destination, you’re entitled to compensation, so long as the delay is due to a qualified flight.

    If you’re flying LHR-JFK-MCO, and you get into MCO at least three hours after your scheduled arrival, you’re entitled to compensation, UNLESS the delay is entirely due to the domestic flight. So, if your LHR-JFK flight is on time, but your JFK-MCO flight is delayed four hours, you’re not entitled to compensation.

    On the flipside, if you’re flying LHR-JFK-MCO, with a six hour layover in JFK, and your LHR-JFK flight is four hours late, you’re NOT entitled to compensation, so long as you still catch your JFK-MCO flight and arrive in MCO on time.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Wish we had EU 261 for domestic travel.

  • MarkKelling

    Since when do lawyers pay attention to the law? :-)

    Thanks for the explanation.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Well, as the old adage goes:

    If the law is on your side, pound the law.

    If the facts are on your side, pound the facts.

    If neither is on your side, pound the table.

    :)

  • Don Spilky

    Actually, this demonstrates the efficacy of regulatory might, as Airberlin ignored consumer advocacy contacts.

  • cscasi

    ” I could play lawyer and claim that the initial delay was not long enough to trigger any of the EU 261 clauses and since the connection was on an airline not based in Europe and not flying from Europe that nothing else was owed.”
    I thought you were playing lawyer here and making the case? So, why would you do that if lawyers do not pay attention to the law? Just saying. :-)

  • joycexyz

    No more flights from JFK to Miami? It’s practically a shuttle! But those pesky interline agreements…

  • DepartureLevel

    Why do people insist they can make a connection – at JFK airport in ten minutes (two different airlines, two terminals) ??? If the airplane was literally sitting at the next gate she would not have gotten on as the gate would have already been closed. She only got the 600 Euro refund as a “shut-up and go away” message.

  • just me

    “Our advocates reached out to Airberlin on Evran’s behalf. Airberlin ignored our initial contacts. But after Evran filed a complaint with the German authorities, Airberlin offered her a 600 euro refund (approximately $650), which is far better than the 100 euro discount off a future airfare. It demonstrates the efficacy of consumer advocacy.”
    Really? – It does demonstrate total lack of efficacy of consumer advocacy.
    It proves that strong consumer protection of the EU law EC 261 iworks and that the US advocacy was ignored and lack of consumer protection like in EU sucks. Nothing more and nothing less.
    Of course she was also due reimbursement for the meals, telephone calls and hotel – I am not sure it was included in the compensation she got.

  • C Schwartz

    Umm 10 minutes to get through customs and immigration and then get to the gate? Um noooo. It is the same terminal but still…… AA no longer has an interline agreement with Delta, so there was no way to endorse the ticket. Nice that the EU 261 regulation works so well.