Travel

travel troubleshooter

Hey Meridiana Airline, where’s our compensation check?

Q.My husband’s and my recent flight from London to Naples, Italy, on Meridiana, an Italian airline, was delayed by more than seven hours. As a result, we missed the first day of our escorted hike, and did not arrive at our hotel — located a few hours southeast of Naples — until nearly midnight.

After we had returned from our trip, we were advised to invoke EU 261, the European consumer protection regulation. It states that if a flight is delayed more than three hours and the distance traveled is more than 932 miles, each passenger filing a timely claim is entitled to a payment of 400 euros.

We immediately filed a claim. We received an automated message from Meridiana saying that the company would not be responding right away, and later, an e-mail stating that we had not completed the Meridiana form on its website, which requested identical information.

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We then provided all the pertinent information again, and we submitted it by e-mail to the Meridiana customer-care e-mail address about two months after our flight. It has been more than 75 days since we submitted the necessary forms and documents to Meridiana, and neither of us has received any communication or compensation from the airline. We have a valid claim, the facts are clear, and we have supplied the required documentation.

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We would like to receive the 400 euros each that are due to us under the EU regulation.

LYNNE VITI

Westwood, Mass.

A.Meridiana should have paid your claim a long time ago. But the foot-dragging you experienced is normal, especially for smaller European airlines. It’s a known strategy: Airlines believe that delaying a claim will encourage you to drop the matter, and it often works. But not in your case.

Let’s take a closer look at that regulation you were invoking. EU 261 establishes common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights. The definition of “long delay” depends on the distance to be flown. I have more information on my frequently asked questions page on EU 261 on my consumer-advocacy site: http://elliott.org/frequently-asked-questions-about-eu261/.

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One of the problems with EU 261 is that there’s no ironclad provision for a timely reimbursement, so even if you file a valid claim, it could take a while to get a refund. Smaller airlines such as Meridiana are known to take advantage of this shortcoming. That’s why claims services like AirHelp exist to help cut through the red tape. Well, no one said it was a perfect regulation.

On a related note, imagine if such a regulation existed in the United States? Wouldn’t it be something if airlines could be held to their published schedules? As it stands now, an airline is not required to keep its schedule under the law. That’s absurd, of course. Imagine if everyone decided to pay their 2017 taxes in 2020 (or, if you’re a politician, never).

You could have filed a complaint with the Ente Nazionale per l’Aviazione Civile, the Italian regulatory agency responsible for enforcing EU 261 (www.enac.gov.it/servizio/info_in_english/), but instead you turned to me and my advocacy team for help.

I contacted Meridiana and, after a considerable amount of back and forth between the airline and our advocacy team, it finally cut you a check for 800 euros.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or e-mail him at chris@elliott.org.