This week I received a $290usd bank check from LOT Polish Airlines from an EU261 compensation claim I filed against a cancelled Gdansk to Krakow flight in June 2018. My wife received a $290usd check too. We have $580 unrestricted cash to spend. That cash should cover the cost for her next ticket to Europe. This article describes what we experienced with a flight cancellation, the airline’s airport remedy at the time and the compensation claim process after our trip that resulted in our compensation payment received this week.
This was the first time I ever needed to file an EU261 claim. My article discusses our LOT Polish Airlines travel experience in detail and the EU261 claim process.
What is EU261 airline compensation?
Some airlines call it EC 261. Most blogs simply call it EU261.
Flight Compensation Regulation (EC) 261/2004 is a European Union law requiring compensation and accommodation for flight cancellation, long flight delay or denied boarding on a flight originating in an EU member state or flying to an EU member state on an airline based in an EU member state.
In the event of flight cancellation or denied boarding, the passengers concerned have the right to:
- reimbursement of the cost of the ticket within seven days or a return flight to the first point of departure or re-routing to their final destination;
- care (refreshments, meals, hotel accommodation, transport between the airport and place of accommodation, two free telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails);
- compensation totalling:
- €250 for all flights of 1,500 kilometres or less;
- €400 for all intra-EU flights of more than 1,500 kilometres, and for all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres;
- €600 for all other flights.
The regulation introduces a three-tier system:
- in the event of long delays (two hours or more, depending on the distance of the flight), passengers must in every case be offered free meals and refreshments plus two free telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails;
- if the time of departure is deferred until the next day, passengers must also be offered hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the place of accommodation;
- when the delay is five hours or longer, passengers may opt for reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure.
Upgrading and downgrading
If an air carrier places a passenger in a class lower than that for which the ticket was purchased, the passenger must be reimbursed within seven days, as follows:
- 30 % of the price of the ticket for all flights of 1,500 kilometres or less;
- 50 % of the price of the ticket for all intra-EU flights of more than 1,500 kilometres, except flights between EU countries and the French overseas departments, and for all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres;
- 75 % of the price of the ticket for all other flights, including flights between EU countries and the French overseas department
June 2018 LOT Polish cancelled flight Gdansk, Poland to Krakow, Poland
Our two airline tickets from Gdansk GDN to Krakow KRW on a domestic LOT Polish flight were $69 each when I purchased them in April 2018. The 303-mile nonstop flight was scheduled to take 95 minutes.
8 days before our flight and after we had been in Europe several days, LOT Polish notified me by email in mid-June of a schedule change from 9:00pm departure to a 10:35pm departure arriving in Krakow at 11:55pm. This schedule change made my decision to book a reward night at Hilton Garden Inn Krakow Airport for 10,000 Hilton Honors points.
We arrived by train at Krakow Airport around 7:30pm from the beach town of Sopot for our 10:35pm flight.
About 9:30pm we learned our flight was delayed to 11:05pm. Eventually, after more delay notifications, the LOT Polish flight to Krakow was cancelled after midnight, around 00:45 in the morning, some 2 hours after the 22:35 scheduled departure time.
The most frustrating part of the experience was nearly all the discussion for two hours between LOT Polish gate staff at Gdansk Airport and irate passengers at the gate requesting information was spoken in Polish. I repeatedly sought out bilingual Polish-English speakers to update me on flight status during the two hour wait at the airport gate before the flight was cancelled. Around 1am the gate agents told everyone to go to the check-in counter to pick up their luggage and arrange airline rebooking.
We were told by Poles that the gate agents were scheduling a charter bus to drive us to Krakow. An overnight 6-hour bus ride was not an alternative we were willing to accept. Some passengers discussed going to Krakow by train. That meant about 2.5 hours to Warsaw, then 2.5 to 3 hours more to Krakow.
At some point the airline staff announced the charter bus transportation idea was dropped. The other piece of vital information I learned was the LOT Polish Gdansk Airport ticketing office would open at 5am and passengers were given the option to wait at the airport and rebook a flight to Krakow at that time. There was an 8:50 LOT Polish flight in the morning scheduled for Warsaw.
At 1am, after six hours already at Gdansk Airport, we simply wanted to walk across the airport parking lot and check-in to the Hampton Inn Gdansk Airport for 10,000 points.
I waited another hour in line at the airport check-in desk area waiting to receive overnight hotel accommodation and transportation vouchers from one of two airline agents processing all the people from the flight.
Around 1:45am I finally reached the LOT Polish desk agent who quickly wrote out a hotel and taxi transportation vouchers to the hotel. She instructed me to call LOT Polish Airlines in the morning to reschedule our flight to Krakow.
I expected accommodation in an airport hotel. To my surprise, LOT Polish contracts accommodation with the Sheraton Sopot. This is the same hotel we had checked out of 12 hours earlier and also one of the premier hotels for the region in upscale Sopot, Poland’s main beach resort town.
Loyalty Traveler – Sheraton Sopot Poland and our LOT in life
At 2am I handed the taxi driver our LOT Polish transportation voucher and we slumped into the back seat, bleary eyed and exhausted for the 20 minute ride to Sopot 20 kilometers from the airport. But first the taxi driver needed to stop for gas.
Back at Sheraton Sopot, the front desk agent provided us with room keys and buffet breakfast vouchers and a 70PLN ($19.15usd) hotel credit voucher we could use for room service food.
Rebooking our flight to Krakow
After falling asleep around 2:45am, I was on the phone at 7:30am with LOT Polish to rebook our flight.
Trading a points night at Hilton Garden Inn Krakow Airport for a free night at Sheraton Sopot with breakfast and a dining voucher was nice compensation. However, my main concern was getting to Krakow by the end of day. We had one more hotel night scheduled in Old Town Krakow.
Even more important than the hotel, we had a Ryanair Krakow to Rome flight departing the next morning. Krakow was not a tourist destination for our trip. Krakow was a one day airport transit destination for a cheaper way to fly to Rome for our Star Alliance flights back to California.
The LOT Polish ticket rebooking process was painless, although our rebooking required a one-stop flight via Warsaw departing at 14:55, arrival 15:55, then Warsaw to Krakow 16:40-17:35.
This actually seemed like an ideal departure time given the circumstances. An afternoon flight allowed us to stay in our room at the Sheraton until noon and provided Kelley more time to sleep.
Already awake, I made it to the Sheraton breakfast buffet on my own, primarily to see what was offered since it was complimentary. My minimal appetite after too little sleep would not have justified buying a breakfast.
After check-out we ordered lunch at the hotel bar, then returned by taxi to Gdansk airport using our LOT Polish voucher.
We finally arrived at Krakow Airport around 19:00 after another 90 minute delayed flight departure in Warsaw. We spent the Warsaw delay hanging out drinking beer at a Warsaw airport lounge adjacent to the gate, while watching World Cup.
We lost our planned day in Krakow. Still, we made the best of our time upon arrival with a lovely dinner and a couple liters of beer at Restaurace Sukiennice on Rynek Glowny, Krakow’s Old Town Square.
EU 261 Flight Compensation Claim
Since this was my first EU 261 claim, I was unfamiliar with the process. I went to the LOT Polish ticket sales office in the Gdansk Airport terminal prior to checking in for our rebooked flight. The agent showed me how to navigate to the customer service page on the LOT Polish website to file a claim for flight cancellation.
The form requested all the original ticket data and included a box labeled ‘Opinion’ allowing 2,500 characters written comment. I provided details about the impact of our flight cancellation.
Flight canceled after midnight. Lost one paid hotel night in Krakow. Rebooked June xx via Warsaw and went through another flight delay in Warsaw with 90 minute delay reaching Krakow on June xx.
Request EU261 compensation.
An EU261 compensation request starts with the airline. I filed the LOT Polish compensation claim on July 2, 2018.
August 27, 2018 was finally when I received an email response from LOT Polish airline.
Dear Mr Garrido,
Firstly, please accept our apologies for the extended waiting time for an answer. Rest assured that this is not due to disregard but rather due to a high volume of inquiries we have received during the holiday season.
In response to your mail concerning cancellation of the flight LO 3501 we would like to begin by giving our sincere apologies for all inconvenience you experienced.
We are aware that our passengers expect from us reliability in all aspects of our service. Nevertheless, sometimes unforeseeable circumstances occur.
Please be kindly informed that, taking into consideration all the circumstances, we have decided to offer you a compensation in the amount of EUR 250.
In order to finalize the transaction, please complete the form attached below with necessary bank account details. Kindly be advised that our financial department reserves approximately four weeks to process the transaction.
We hope your future travels will be satisfactory in every respect.
Passenger Claims Section
This week we each received a LOT Polish check for $290. Unlike US airlines which generally provide a travel voucher credit only redeemable with that airline, these checks are made out to us and money in the bank.
All ended well in this case. I was only out 10,000 Hilton Honors points for the missed reward night. We lost a full day planned for Krakow, but we were back in Krakow for 8 nights in July 2018. We arrived in Rome via Ryanair the following day for three nights there before flying back to California.
And we now have $580 to help pay for our next trip to Europe.
More information on EU 261 claims can be found through these websites.
Christopher Elliott has a detailed FAQ article detailing EU 261 claims geared more to a U.S. resident audience.
This is Money is a UK website with EU flight delay compensation information.
EUR-Lex EU denied-boarding and delayed flight compensation system is the actual rule text available in 24 different languages.