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   Vol. 15  No. 59
Wednesday August 3, 2016

Repo Man Moves Customer Claim
Repo Man Moves Customer Claim
     Earlier this year, a rather unusual request for airside access was presented to the Duty Manager of Salzburg airport (IATA: SZG, ICAO: LOWS).
      A court-appointed bailiff—in Austrian German most fittingly dubbed “Exekutor”—was about to impound a Thomas Cook aircraft because of delay compensations owed by the airline to an air passenger for several years.
      Under European harmonized air passenger rules, passengers have a legal right for compensation if a flight is delayed or cancelled for reasons in the responsibility of the air carrier, but not if the driver is labor walk-outs, war, unusual weather, or accidents. Technical delays, however, or crew/aircraft rotation delays are not considered extraordinary circumstance and usually trigger a right for compensation.
      If the delay is more than six hours, the maximum amount of 600 Euros (US $684) is due to anyone who makes a claim.
      The air passenger on whose behalf the bailiff acted had flown with Thomas Cook Airlines (MT) operating on behalf of Condor (DE) in 2012 to Varadero, Cuba (IATA: VRA, ICAO: MUVR). Because the flight was delayed for slightly more than 22 hours, the passenger claimed the due compensation, which is not related to the price paid for the ticket:
      Any passenger with a confirmed reservation has a right to the fixed compensation amount, even when flying on an LCC for the proverbial 1 Euro ticket.
      While Thomas Cook was quick to confirm that they indeed owed the money to the passenger and that the passenger’s claim was not honored “due to a mishap,” this incident puts a rather questionable practice in the spotlight.
      The air passenger filed a claim with Thomas Cook but for 18 months the claim went unresolved. Eventually he employed the services of “FlightRight,” an organization specializing in filing and collecting air passengers claims from air carriers.
      It was rather unusual that even after FlightRight was on their case, Thomas Cook did not respond.
      Thus the default verdict against the carrier and a collection order against Thomas Cook property by the Higher State Court of Linz, Austria, after even a trans-European dunning, undertaken by FlightRight, had proven fruitless.
      Thomas Cook's sister airline, Condor, immediately paid the money so that the aircraft did not need to be impounded and no enforcement action was needed.
      “We first heard of the claim on Friday, when we were notified by the airport in Salzburg,” Condor spokesman Johannes Winter told NBC News. “Once we heard of it, we immediately paid. We are very sorry that it took this long.”
      “Some airlines use the tactic of blocking requests or taking so long that people give up,” FlightRight’s Jonas Swarzenski told NBC News.
      “I think this was just an administrative mistake by the airline; the claim probably just got lost on somebody's desk.”
      However, Swarzenski did point up that only about 15 percent of travelers entitled to an EU compensation ever make a claim.
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