There is a school of thought that the National Enforcement Bodies (NEB) of each EU Member State are the sole arbiters in dealing with disputes under the flight delay/cancellation/denied boarding Regulations - EC Regulation 261/2004. Power is given to the NEB's to deal with complaints and to take sanctions against airlines. In the UK, our NEB is the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and they have under the Enterprise Act created a structure which apparently leads to that goal. No mention of how they will deal with airlines that claim the defence of 'extraordinary circumstances'; nothing to indicate how they would help Consumers overcome that particular hurdle. The ultimate sanction is apparently criminal prosecution against an airline that fails to fulfil its 261/2004 obligations. I haven't heard of any such prosecutions in the UK, have you?
Consider then this story from a Consumer.
Our holidaymaker suffered with a 15 hour flight delay in June 2012 and received no resolution from the airline.
So she wrote to the CAA:
- 28 July 2012 and was told to contact the travel agent and airline and asked to forward any correspondence onto the CAA;
- The holidaymaker did as she was requested and forwarded everything to the CAA shortly after;
- On 28 August 2012, she received an acknowledgement from the CAA and was told that it would take them 4 weeks to reply to her;
- On 17 November 2012, realising that she had not heard from the CAA, she e mailed them to chase a reply and guess what - she received an e mail by return from the CAA to tell her that it would take another 4 weeks to get a reply to her original request;
- On 9 January 2013 she wrote to the CAA chasing her letter and e mail and was told by return that it would take 4 weeks to get a reply from them;
- On 5 March 2013, she again wrote to the CAA chasing her letters and asking for a response - this time she didn't even get an acknowledgement;
- On 17 March 2013, she re-sent her letter of the 5 March 2013 - this time by recorded delivery and she is still waiting for a response!
This doesn't exactly fill you with confidence does it; is it any wonder that Consumers head to court when the very body tasked to help them does not appear to be able to respond to letters?
There are those who say that Consumers should be dissuaded from going to Court; that's all very well, but until Consumers are confident that they can benefit from a robust and independent NEB, then Court would appear to be the only option!