Have an Airline Complaint? It May Cost You.
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
If you fly often enough, chances are good that you’ll eventually encounter a situation where you feel wronged by an airline, and that you deserve compensation of some sort. Well now, the complaint resolution process is about to come even more difficult, especially if you fly on many European airlines, who are now outsourcing their complaint resolutions and making customers pay even more in some cases.
Nineteen European airlines including British Airways, EasyJet, and Thomas Cook are now handing disputes from passengers over to the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), taking away even more of the humanity that we used to expect from airline customer service. The real kicker here is that if your dispute is not resolved in your favor, you’ll have to pay for it! That’s right, the CEDR will impose a £25 fee for those complaints that are ruled in favor of the airlines.
An EasyJet spokesperson told the Daily Mail the program was “chosen based on its competence and suitability to provide alternative dispute resolution procedures for us.” The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said their rulings are not legally binding, and should the airlines refuse to pay, the customer often has to pursue their case through the courts. And who wants to take a case against an airline to court? That’s even more money out of pocket.
How does this benefit an airline? By making the process more complicated, it may discourage passengers from complaining in the first place, which would in turn lower the overall number of complaints — thereby making the airline look better in those monthly reports that detail the number of complaints received.
It would be easy to see a couple of airlines in the U.S. jumping all over this, particularly those who are already fond of fees. You’ve got to hand it to Spirit Airlines — they’re one of the most complained-about airlines in the country, yet they reported Second Quarter earnings of $1.03 per share, and an operating margin of 20.9 percent. That’s close to Delta’s 23.19 percent, and more than triple United’s 6.26 percent. Financially, Spirit is doing something right. Travelers are a glutton for punishment, as long as they can get somewhere cheaply. I imagine Spirit adopting a fee like this, and calling it the “Wasting Our Time Fee.”
Europe does have a very generous compensation program for victims of delayed flights of up to €600 depending on distance, if your flight was canceled, you were denied boarding, or delayed more than three hours for non weather-related circumstances. No such mandatory compensation currently exists in the U.S.
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