Denied boarding on Airberlin — where are those 600 euros they owe me?

By | January 7th, 2017

Answer: Overbooking is one of the biggest customer service problems in the airline industry, and I’m sorry you experienced it on your flight home from Germany.

For international flights originating in Europe, EU 261 provides the following:

The right to financial compensation for overbooking and cancellations

At overbooking, the airline must first ask for passengers who are voluntarily willing to give up their reservations for a compensation, the carrier and the passenger may agree upon. Are there not enough volunteers the airline is obliged to financially compensate those who are denied boarding against their will. The amount of compensation depends on the distance.

    • EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 kilometers or less:
    • EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometers, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometers
    • EUR 600 for all other flights.

One reason for Airberlin’s lack of a satisfactory response to your request may be because its terms and conditions for flights originating or ending in the U.S. and Canada differ from those in EU 261 when it comes to involuntary denied boarding compensation on flights to and from the U.S.:

For the purpose of this paragraph, the term “Involuntary Refund” shall mean any passenger who is prevented from using the carriage provided for in his ticket because of … inability of carrier to provide previously confirmed space …


Involuntary refunds will be computed as follows: When no portion of the trip has been made, the amount of refund will be equal to the fare paid.

When a portion of the trip has been made, the amount of refund will be:

Either an amount equal to the one-way fare less the same rate of discount, if any, that was applied in computing the original one-way fare (or on round or circle trip tickets, one half of the round trip fare) and charges applicable to the unused transportation … or the difference between the fare paid and the fare for the transportation used, whichever is higher.

Airberlin committed a number of customer service fails in your case. It should not have oversold your flight in the first place. It should have enabled you to check in online. When it didn’t, it should have generated a boarding pass for you at the Düsseldorf airport.

It should have promptly refunded you 600 euros in accordance with EU 261, not a mere 50 euros. And it really makes no sense that its “Guest Relations Team” can’t handle customer service issues by phone or email.

You might have escalated your complaint using our contacts for Airberlin to higher-level executives, but you asked our advocates to assist you in getting the refund.

After our advocates reached out to Airberlin on your behalf, we were notified that Airberlin has apologized and issued a 600-euro refund to you.



  • MF

    Being a bit cynical, I can imagine that AirBerlin instructed their CSR’s to ‘test’ unhappy passengers to see if they really understand rule 261, and to offer less than full compensation to return more money to shareholders if the PAX did not press for fair compensation.

  • jsn55

    I don’t understand why she didn’t follow their instructions and file a request for a refund in writing. Calling an airline’s CS department generally means you’ll get little help unless your problem is very simple. Isn’t writing the best way to handle these kinds of issues? Or maybe I missed something.

  • sirwired

    While we can’t say for certain, I’d say it’s entirely possible that she would have gotten her payment, had she followed the instructions.

    When AA owed me an EU 261 payment, I happened to find the special e-mail address for such claims on my own, but I wouldn’t have thought anything of it if I had contacted customer service had I contacted them and they asked me to use it.

    Yes, it’d be nice if they could process everything informally over phone or a single e-mail department, but filling out a web form is hardly the trials of Job.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I just wish we had EU 261 in the US.

  • MF

    Amen (and it’s not even Sunday)!

  • Steve Rabin

    How do they get away with having different rules for US/Canada flights, when rule 261 makes it clear that it applies to all EU based airlines, regardless of where the flight originates (not that this is relevant in this case considering the flight started in the EU).

  • cscasi

    I believe that a lot of the airlines will do whatever they can to avoid paying or pay as little as they can, just to save money. No, it is not right, but so many passengers do not know the rules and/or do not file a complaint with the proper authorities when something like this happens, so they get away with it. Or, they do not file the proper form with the airline and are not properly compensated. It is a shame but it happens all the time. I have learned a lot from what I have read here and it will help me be better prepared when something happens to me when I am on a trip.

  • joycexyz

    Why can’t airlines (and other companies as well) be required to inform customers of their rights? Are we all supposed to be conversant in the law?

  • Lindabator

    no – just not too lazy to fill in the form and submit it for the full refund – she was told did, chose not to, and then expects them to do something over the phone – have filed online for my clients without ANY problems – just do it and you will get an email in short order

  • Mark

    It wouldn’t surprise me if they explicitly target American passport holders for IDB, as they may be less aware of EU261.

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