Back in January (2019), we went to Germany for a little holiday. We left Moscow on 1st January, and came back on 6th January. The reason for going to Germany? To see friends and attend a couple of their concerts.
We often travel to their concerts. It’s always great to see them, and we get to visit new places at the same time!
We had a wonderful time in Munich and Stuttgart. I even created my 5 Minute Guide to Munich from that trip. Two great concerts, good friends, good food, and we discovered two new cities we hadn’t been to before.
We were super tired on the day we left Munich. We’d had only a couple of hours sleep before we had to get up at 5am to go to the airport in Munich. We then had a 5 hour stopover in Warsaw. We had planned to spend that time in the city, but we were exhausted so eventually decided to stay in the airport at Warsaw, find somewhere quiet, and settle in for a long nap.
Which we did, with moderate success – as is normal in an airport.
However, as the time approached for our flight, we noticed that it was delayed. It wasn’t really a problem for us. The only thing it affected was that we would have to wait a bit longer to reach the comfort of our bed.
The delay kept getting longer. And longer. And again, longer.
Our plane was due to leave Warsaw at 16.25, and arrive in Moscow at 20.35. Time passed, an hour, then two. I heard an announcement about our flight, and something about 250 euros. It wasn’t really clear and I didn’t understand everything, but my ears pricked upon hearing the amount (who wouldn’t want 250 euros if it was on offer?).
I went over to the counter at the gate. As you can imagine, it was packed. As a native English speaker I could understand what was being said. Most of the other passengers were Russian, and were having a difficult time dealing with the woman because of the language barrier.
I asked her what our options were. She said, if we change planes and take the plane after ours instead of the one we booked (the later plane was scheduled to leave about 3 hours after ours), we would get 250 euros compensation. It seemed that not only was our flight delayed, it was also over-booked.
I quickly checked with Olivier. Of course, we’ll do it!
What happened next
After telling her we were happy to change flights, she took our boarding passes and told me that we had to go to the information desk not too far away to see about the compensation. She gave us some kind of voucher, and told us that the vouchers would be exchanged for new boarding passes for the later flight at the information desk.
So, we went to the information desk. The woman there said that she didn’t have new boarding passes for us, and that she didn’t really know what we wanted. She called the woman at the gate who had given us the vouchers. They finally decided that we would get the new boarding passes later at the gate, from the same woman who gave us the vouchers.
I asked about the compensation. She explained that we would have to apply for compensation through their website.
Ok, so at that point we had no boarding passes, no flight, and no real concrete evidence that we would get any compensation.
The waiting begins
We then settled in to wait for the later flight and to get our boarding passes.
I asked at the gate about getting a coffee or snack from them, but they said that there was nothing available for us. I’ve since found out, that for flights up to 1500km, delayed for more than 2 hours, they’re obliged to provide free food and drinks while we’re waiting for the plane. (NB. This is EU regulations only, Based on the European Regulation No. 261/2004 )
About three hours after the departure time of our original flight, they told us that we would take our original flight, after all, and not the later flight. They’d managed to squeeze us into the business class section, although we wouldn’t be sitting together (and we wouldn’t be getting business class service).
She printed off new boarding passes for us, and half an hour later we were squashed into our seats and heading to Moscow.
It was after midnight when we got to Moscow. After collecting our luggage we found a taxi – which became a story in its own right! – and finally arrived home. Very, very tired.
The next day, I decided to check if we were eligible for compensation for the delayed flight. I didn’t know if we would still be eligible because we hadn’t been put on the later flight, but had travelled home on our original flight, even though it had been delayed by 3.5 hours.
After reading as much as I could, I decided that with what information I had, we could still be compensated for the delay. I went to the airline’s website (which, in case you’ve been wondering, was LOT, Polish airlines), and completed all the information about the delay and pressed ‘send’. A notice on the page said I should hear from them within 30 days.
Waiting for a response
So, I waited. And waited. And waited some more.
On 26th February, I looked for some way to contact them, and found that their customer service department used Facebook Messenger. So, I contacted them and asked them for an update.
I got the standard answer – apologising for the delay, passenger claims department is still working on it, we don’t know how long it will take. And – if you have any other questions please feel free to contact us again.
Not a very satisfactory exchange, but what can you do? I thanked them kindly and started waiting again.
I tried again
On 10th March I tried again and sent a message on Messenger. On 11th March they replied and apologised and said that the passenger claims department haven’t made a decision, they were working on it, and would contact me when they had reached a decision.
I told her (Karol) that I would like this finalised within 14 days, and could she please tell me how I can contact the passenger claims department directly. She gave me two options – 1. Use their online contact form (the same one I had used to lodge the claim more than 2 months before with no answer), or 2. Write to this address. Snail mail.
So, I asked Karol to arrange for a manager from the passenger claims department to contact me directly. She’s sorry, but she can’t do this.
I asked her to pass me to her manager, she ignored this and told me to contact the passenger claims department directly.
So, I explained that I’ve had no reply from that department, and could she please pass me to her manager. She told me it’s not possible to talk to her manager.
I asked her how much time I’d have to wait for a decision on our claims. She doesn’t know. I can’t talk to her manager. And she can’t get someone from passenger claims department to contact me.
I wondered what functions their customer service department has – it’s clearly not customer service.
So, I waited. And waited. I was becoming quite good at it.
Finally, on 11th April, I received a reply. Not eligible for compensation due to the delay being outside the carrier’s control blah blah blah. And of course, at the bottom of the letter, in case I was thinking of replying to this person who had rejected me, is this:
“This message has been sent from an e-mail address that does not accept incoming mail . In order to contact LOT Polish Airlines, please complete the customer feedback form on www.lot.com.”
So, I can’t even contact them by email.
During the time I’d been waiting for this email, that is, 3 months, I’d done some research about compensation for delayed flights.
I was sure of a couple of things:
1 – Our flight was delayed by more than 3 hours.
2 – Our flight was less than 1500km
Based on those two things, we should get compensated 250 euros each for this delay.
The only information that I was missing was the reason for the delay. I only had LOT’s word for it that it was something beyond their control, and that because of this they automatically excluded us from being eligible for the compensation. If it’s true, and we’re not eligible, no problem. But, should I believe them? No, no, no!
I’d found a company which assists people in getting their rightful compensation for flight delays, cancellations etc. So I contacted them by email and they said I’d have to provide them with more details before they could be sure we were eligible for compensation.
So, I completed their form, and they gave me two interesting pieces of information.
1 – They had already obtained compensation for other passengers on that flight, and
2 – We were eligible for compensation.
Well, well, well. What’s going on here? Are we eligible or aren’t we? Who’s telling the truth?
So, for a fee of 63 euros each, this company will make an application to LOT on our behalf. Like many of these kinds of services, we only pay the fee if we get the compensation. Nothing to lose – except the 63 euros each they charge. But, it’s either that, or accept LOT’s decision and get nothing.
We gave them authority to apply on our behalf. They told us to expect an answer in about 40 days, but possibly longer. (Update: today we got an email stating that LOT refuses to co-operate, so they requested our e-tickets and some other information and will get back to us when they have exhausted the legal route. At this point we have a 95% chance of being compensated).
The waiting continues
Let’s see what happens. I just wonder, if we really are entitled to this compensation, and if we get it, should I claim the 63 euro fee back from LOT? After all, if they had accepted our claim in the first place, we wouldn’t have to pay this company to fight for us.
I’ll let you all know what happens. Stay tuned.
Have you ever had to claim compensation for a delayed flight? Did the airline co-operate or did they give you a hard time? Let us know in the comments about your experience!
Here are some travel-related posts that you also might enjoy:
- 5 Minute Guide to Hanoi
- 5 Minute Guide to Moscow
- Berlin, I love you really…but some things have to change