/ Travel & Leisure

KLM needs to cough up for volcanic ash crisis

Volcano erupting

Most travellers caught up in the volcanic ash nightmare have had their cash reimbursed by now. So why does KLM think it’s fair to keep its customers waiting?

I know that EU Regulations probably aren’t everyone’s ideal reading material, but when the Icelandic volcano erupted in mid-April this year, EC 261/2004 quickly became my best friend.

Sad I know, but for the hundreds of thousands of people who had travelled on EU-based airlines or out of an EU airport, they are probably glad that they were written.

What’s the point of these EU regulations?

These are the regulations that state that those who had their flights delayed or cancelled are entitled to care from the airlines. This includes food and drink costs for delays over two hours, and hotel accommodation if an overnight stay is needed.

Most consumers caught up in the volcanic mess have now been reimbursed. It’s taken a while as some airlines haven’t all been very quick to pay back customers for these costs.

But one airline – KLM – appears to be holding out and making up their own rules, restricting payments to just one night’s accommodation. They’ve now been sent a formal warning by the European Union and face legal action if they do not comply.

Come on KLM, cough up

It’s not surprising this regulation isn’t up there among the airlines’ favourites. As they see it, it’s not fair that there’s no limit on the number of days’ subsistence they must pay for. They’re also annoyed that their responsibility bears no relation to the price of the flight ticket.

Confused? Let’s take an example. Someone who bought a very cheap flight out on the April 14 with a ticket to return on the next day would be entitled to subsistence and accommodation for at least five nights until airspace re-opened and they could get home.

To the airlines, that’s a big payout for a relatively small amount spent by the customer. So perhaps, these are fair points, and a review of this regulation by European Transport Ministers is due to take place in the next few months to begin the process of sorting it all out.

In the meantime, should passengers who travelled with KLM during April be any worse off than those on other European airlines? No. The EU needs to show its teeth on this one and allow passengers to claim what they are entitled to.