/ Travel & Leisure

Are you entitled to compensation from TAP Air Portugal?

Customers who had their flight cancelled last minute aren’t receiving the compensation they’re entitled to – it’s just one reason we’re demanding auto-compensation for all air passengers.

As soon as ‘delayed’ was displayed on the board for my recent Ryanair flight to Dublin, I started my mental stopwatch.

After more than an hour wasting time around duty-free, the flight was finally given a gate and soon after started boarding.

But once when everyone was buckled up with tray-tables stowed away, our chipper pilot announced there was an engine part apparently missing and we would have to wait another 45 minutes.

Without air-conditioning, the plane quickly started heating up and passengers started to get frustrated.

What’s worse, we ended up leaving 1:55 after our scheduled departure – meaning no compensation. At least we still got there that evening.

TAP trouble

In April, TAP Air Portugal flight to Heathrow was cancelled last minute. Many were forced to spend the night in the terminal, others had to arrange their own accommodation and pay for it out of their own pocked.

Read: TAP passengers fight for compensation.

This is not the treatment the passengers were entitled to under the Denied Boarding EU Regulation (Regulation 261/2004 EC).

All the passengers ended up getting back to London well after the four hours they were meant to, meaning they’re each owed €400 under that same regulation.

Fast forward four months and some passengers have received compensation, others offered flight vouchers but some who have filed claims for more than €1,000 have heard absolutely nothing from the airline.

It wasn’t until we contacted TAP Air Portugal to ask why these passengers’ rights had not been upheld that those who’ve not heard anything back were finally contacted by the airline.

Failing passengers?

We got in touch with the airline on their behalf to ask why the passengers’ rights hadn’t been upheld and within hours they emailed the passengers named in the story.

A spokesman from TAP Air Portugal told me that he could confirm ‘all the passengers affected had been contacted and offered compensation in the form of a voucher or cash’.

And that while reimbursement in vouchers was ‘optional’, the value would be an increase of up to 100% of that of the compensation under the Regulation.

He said: ‘TAP would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.’

Flight auto-compensation

Experiences like these are exactly why we’re calling on the Government to bring in automatic compensation.

This will eliminate the hassle of claiming and remove the risk that an airline will inconsistently pay out compensation, ensuring all passengers get the money they’re entitled to.

Have you ever struggled to get the compensation you’re owed from an airline or battled to get your money reimbursed for a flight or accommodation you’ve had to book yourself? Or have you ever had your rights ignored by an airline?


How would airlines know the bank account to which any compensation (usually denominated in EUR) should be paid? Not everyone is a simple consumer with only a GBP bank account and paying for their own flight with a UK debit card. Take the following examples of why the airline cannot simply refund to the original card used to pay for the flight:

1. The tickets were paid for with a credit card that earns points, airmiles or cashback etc. Any refund to the same card will cause a cancellation of those benefits to the value of the compensation, which could exceed the amount earnt for purchasing the flight.
2. Refunding to a credit card gives a cost saving for the airline in that it receives a refund of interchange fees; this unmerited cost saving for the airline causes the loss of benefits described above.
3. The party who paid for the flight is often not the inconvenienced passenger who is entitled to compensation. It is the passenger who is inconvenienced and therefore legally entitled to compensation, not the party who paid for the flight. Take the example of a business traveller who is significantly delayed on his return home on a Friday evening. Although his employer paid for the flight, it is the passenger who is entitled to the compensation, not the employer who was not inconvenienced at all.
4. Although the flight might be paid for in GBP, compensation is usually due in EUR (€250, €400 or €600 depending on the length of the flight). In many cases, a UK-resident passenger will have a EUR-denominated bank account (for example with Revolut or TransferWise) and will want to receive compensation in the original round EUR amount without conversion (often at a loaded exchange rate in the airline’s favour) to another currency such as GBP. They might want to keep this compensation in EUR to spend in the Eurozone.
5. The passenger might no longer be using the credit card used to pay for the flight, particularly for flights booked many months in advance. A refund to it would cause a credit balance on that credit card rather than giving the passenger money that can be spent anywhere such as via bank transfer or direct debit.

The only practical way for this to work is for each passenger’s bank details for EUR compensation to be specified by the passenger, either at the time of booking or after a delay is suffered; the latter would not be “automatic”. For example, I would give the IBAN of my German bank account, even though I pay for most flights with a British Airways branded GBP-denominated American Express card. How else could this work?

Yet again another good logical piece that avoids the knee-jerk simple answer and looks to the complications that would arise. The Dutch Consumentenbond consumer organisation have an arrangement with a for-a-fee claims company. One of several that exist.

I think that having a body specialising in making claims is probably a better approach given the complexities of the regulations. I understand they actually access all arrival and departure times and are obviously incentivised to make the system work

I have small faith in the airlines operating any system voluntarily and with full rigour

Were all which?.net customers automatically compensated for all the work they had to do at short notice ensuring all their contacts, some hard to recall, were made aware of their new email arrangements?

I’m afraid I get a bit tired of this compensation culture that is developing. Where there is statutory compensation it should be made as simple as possible for people to claim it. Otherwise people who believe they have been financially disadvantaged should have an easy method to make individual claims, based on loss. Remember who pays for this compensation – all of us through increased charges. Providing automatic compensation, other than statutory, can result in many receiving money they would not have thought to claim, who have not suffered a material loss, and who might not merit it.

Malcolm, do you not believe that a passenger who suffers a deficient service should pay less for the service than a passenger who enjoys a perfect service?

I don’t believe that EU261/2004 compensation is mostly funded by increased fares, because then EEA and Swiss airlines’ fares would be uncompetitive, particularly on flights from non-EEA/Swiss airports to EEA/Swiss airports. The compensation comes out of airlines’ profits and creates a huge incentive to ensure that passengers are not unreasonably delayed.

We all suffer from variable service whether planes , trains, buses, broadband, energy, banking……. so I’d look at a normal service as what we pay for, with normal deficiencies that we expect. Perfect is a bonus, and it depends on your own personal view. Airline delays are expected, but if the cause is through negligence or incompetence of the airline then compensation is fair.

We have driven many airline fares down so far that I don’t think the perfect service is something we can expect; you get what you pay for. Those who pay the premium fares should expect better, and be compensated accordingly.

Compensation will come out of the airline’s profits but, if they are small and compensation takes them below an acceptable level, then the airline will have to think how to fund them – fare increase is their source of revenue. Shareholders will likely no longer support an unprofitable airline.

I do agree that the aim is to make it not worthwhile to perform badly through mismanagement. If compensation or fines are just seen as a “business expense” and allowed for in their financial plan then we won’t get far. Reputational damage and much greater loss of revenue might be more persuasive. Perhaps reducing landing and take off quotas for badly performing airlines would be an even greater incentive.

I think we are getting off-topic. The question is whether the existing compensation should be automatic instead of requiring a passenger to claim it. How could this work?

Probably like full product recalls, it will be very difficult. However, for statutory compensation, as for EU flights, when a qualifying delay occurs why not issue every passenger on the flight with a voucher, carrying their ticket number. These could be submitted to a central independent organisation that checks and decides the validity of the claim (was the airline to blame), recovers money directly from the airline and pays the passenger.

Malcolm, what you’re suggesting is not automatic, because the passenger still needs to do something to claim (or “submit” or any other similar concept). Which are suggesting that compensation be paid automatically, whereby the passenger doesn’t need to do anything in order to receive the statutory compensation.

No, I was not suggesting it was “automatic”. The only possible bit that might be regarded as automatic would be issuing each affected passenger with an authenticated form for a potential claim. As has been said a number of times it would be impossible to automatically pay every passenger given the different types of payment and the sources of those payments.

But the reason for this conversation is to discuss the merits of automatic compensation. I disagree that it would be impossible. For example, passengers could specify in their airline user accounts (including frequent flyer accounts) the bank account to which they would like any automatic EUR-denominated compensation to be paid. This would be a sort code and account number for UK-based GBP accounts or otherwise an IBAN.

I disagree with Which that this should be implemented at a UK level. As the legislation is from the EU, it should be implemented at an EU level. The UK has a good track record of pushing the EU to implement consumer-friendly legislation. Perhaps it can do so for this too.

For those people who might often travel to Lisbon the 800 euro of flights might well be much better value than 400euro to an Account. One would be foolish in that instance to take cash,

“The airline first offered the passengers flight vouchers which were double in value to the flight cancellation compensation and the accommodation reimbursement owed.
Read more: which.co.uk/news/2018/08/one-cancelled-flight-six-different-compensation-experiences/ – Which?

Also in the article it advises of a traveller who automatically had the minimum amount credited to his bank account rather than his claimed figure. Does automatic compensation fall over if the amount required exceeds the statutory payment?

Which raises the question is the 400 euro THE compensation for the cancelled flight and some will benefit well and and a few will lose out? I can see how it is working but wonder about the original legislators idea. Looking further I see that the question is complicated by the follow-ons that you might choose after the cancellation.

“If your flight is cancelled, the airline must offer you, on a one off basis, a choice between:

the reimbursement of your ticket and, if you have a connecting flight, a return flight to the airport of departure at the earliest opportunity
re-routing to your final destination at the earliest opportunity or,
re-routing at a later date at your convenience under comparable transport conditions, subject to the availability of seats.

As soon as you have chosen one of these three options, you no longer have rights in relation to the other two options. However, the airline carrier MAY still have to provide COMPENSATION

if you choose to have your ticket reimbursed – the compensation will depend on the type of flight
if you choose re-routing – compensation will depend on the type of flight and the delay in reaching your final destination, past the original scheduled arrival time.”

Sorry to be picky but you can see a possibility of a flight being cancelled but the passengers reaching , or some of them reaching the destination, before the $400 euro compensation kicks in at 4 hours late.

So to help me out here as it seems to me that on a cancelled flight you may have many different options being used and some passengers preferring vouchers. I think it is complex and I am having trouble seeing how it can be automated easily whilst allowing for all the option.

OK. Claims may still need to be authorised as an airline might dispute whether compensation is due unless it is clearcut. We’ve seen how Ryanair, for example, try to wriggle out of claims. Which is why I suggested a “clearing house” where the validity could be decided and the payments taken from the airline and distributed without individuals having to go through all the hassle.

The whole point is that compensation should be sent automatically to passengers’ bank accounts within hours of the delay. There should be no opportunity for an airline to refuse or dispute a “claim”, because there would be no “claim”. The question here is how airlines ascertain the bank account to which the payment should be made.

Where it is clear that there is a valid reason for compensation I can so no reason whatsoever for not paying it immediately. Other circumstances cases would need to be investigated. I think there is merit in the automatic compensation being advocated by Which?

Ryanair etc. may sell cheap flights but they still have to comply with the rules.

Which? News reads “Around 3,500 passengers are delayed flying to or from UK airports every day – Which? calls for airlines to introduce automatic compensation “

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/09/flight-plight-1-3-million-passenger-journeys-at-least-3-hours-late/ – Which?

CAA figures give an average flights per day of 6030 into and out of the UK, carrying 790 000 passengers. So 3500 passengers represent 0.44% of all those travelling. Given the various reasons for delays, particularly congestion and a small problem causing landing and take off slots to be missed, this seems a pretty decent performance.

Difficult, i agree, looking at statistics, but giving raw numbers without looking at their context, or their part of the whole, is a misleading way of presenting information.

It is a shame that what might be an informative piece is weakened badly by being obviously agenda driven and not providing an overall picture of the likelihood of a long delay.

I don’t mind playing with statistics myself but I like to be honest in providing a sense of scale for the problem. If people realised delays only affected a tiny percentage of travellers they might see delays as a reasonable trade-off for the convenience of flying.

I agree with Malcolm if Which? is writing about problem areas for consumers please quantify the numbers in a way that helps subscribers understand fully the numbers relevant.

As to TAP’s behaviour what actions can Which? take – presumably a group legal action? Who is the regulator enforcing payouts currently?