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

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.

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