I was booked on a Veuling flight from Malta to Madrid. Originally, the flight was scheduled to leave at 10:05 p.m with a 1:00 a.m. arrival. My friend and I had debated endlessly whether or not we should get a hotel room in Madrid since it would be after 2:00 a.m. before our heads hit the pillows and we had to be back at the airport for a 10:30 a.m. departure to the U.S. Well, our frugal nature got the best of us and we opted not to get a room. It turned out to be the right decision because our flight ended up being delayed by five hours.
Just before 11:00 p.m., the airline issued meal vouchers. There was only one restaurant in the concourse that was just getting ready to close. People ascended on that place as if they hadn’t seen food in weeks. Within minutes, all the food in the restaurant was sold and those not served were left holding useless meal vouchers.
As the wee hours of the morning began to creep up, people became restless. This guy just kicked off a flip flop and hit the floor.
When we finally arrived in Madrid, a young attorney met our flight and was passing out her business cards telling people that they could get money for their flight. I took her card and secured it with my boarding pass.
A few weeks later, I went to her website and began to input the information that was needed. When I got to the point where I had to upload a copy of my passport, I became suspicious. I let her know that I didn’t feel comfortable giving that information to a complete stranger in another continent. She assured me that it was standard practice, but I just wasn’t ready to trust a total stranger.
Fast forward three months later. I was nosing around on the web and I came across a site called Air Help. I did some digging around and I learned that it is legit. One can actually get money for delayed flights to, from, and within Europe. Their passenger right laws are a lot better than those in the USA and a lot of people make a living out of pursuing compensation for passengers of delayed flights. Of course, they take a fraction of what one wins in litigation, but I couldn’t sue an airline in Spain anyhow.
At that point, I went for it. I filled out the form, uploaded my boarding pass and a copy of my passport, and submitted my claim. Two and a half months later, I was notified that my money was ready. All I needed to do was complete an account with Payoneer and my money would be automatically deposited into my bank account. At this point I trusted these people with my passport information now they wanted my bank account information too?! With reluctance, I figured that my bank would be able to track any unauthorized withdrawal from my accounts. I notified them of what was going on and forbid any withdrawals to be made by Payoneer and I authorized a deposit only. I checked my account, and the equivalent of 300 Euros was deposited to my account. Just like that I was 300 Euros richer. Air Help charged me a fee of 100 Euros, but without their help, I wouldn’t have recovered one cent.
The good news is they can go back five years and file for any flight you took to, from, and within Europe.
I filed two additional claims; both with SATA airlines. One was when our flight from Lisbon to Toronto was changed. SATA is so bad they had to change their name to Azores airlines. They initially cut our trip short by cancelling our flight on our original travel date and gave us the option to leave two days earlier or two days later than our original flight date. We weren’t eligible for compensation for that flight though because they notified us within the proper time frame. Coming home was another story. We paid for a direct flight from Lisbon to Toronto. They ended up changing our direct flight with one that stopped in the Azores. We were further delayed because we had to fly from one island to another in order to fuel the aircraft. Our claim was denied on that flight because they got us to Toronto five minutes before the mandatory three hour delay. Darn! If they had been 15 minutes later, I would have received $1450.
Another claim I filed with SATA was for the flight I took to the Azores. SATA changed my flight and didn’t even tell me! They booked my flight to leave two days earlier than I had planned. Luckily, I was able to accommodate this two day change otherwise I would have been out a lot: a vacation and prepaid hotel costs. To this day, I can’t believe that I just happened to notice the date change on their website. Had I not caught that, I would have missed my flight. Air Help filed for $1289.49 and they charged me 25% standard service fee and 25% legal action fee. This process seemed to take forever. When cases have to go to court, it can take up to three years. I filed the claim on January 26, 2016 and my court date was finally set to March 23, 2017. That is over a year!