On December 6, 2017 the following could be read and freely translated in the Tagesanzeiger (link to PDF article):
Aviation Association IATA rages against air passenger rights portals
The top manager of the industry compared websites that help passengers in case of delays or cancellations to Internet scammers…
… At a media event yesterday in Geneva he repeatedly referred to the portals as Claim Farms.
Where exactly the fraud takes place was not really clear from the article. The statement of IATA boss Alexandre de Juniac shows that the air passenger rights regulation is a thorn in the side of the association; after all the airlines are concerned about money.
De Juniac said that he was not fundamentally opposed to passenger compensation but described the regulation as harmful because it ignored standards and, according to Juniac, provided for complex and disproportionate penalties. It was therefore better for the market to regulate this itself.
However, the IATA association is not quite as critical of market regulation when it comes to protecting its own interests. For example, the regulation of airport charges is welcomed because it keeps costs down for the airlines.
But how exactly do portals like cancelled.ch work and, as mentioned by de Juniac, do they have anything to do with fraud?
cancelled.ch, for example, bundles know-how in one place—in this case passenger rights information. This knowledge is made available to the customers by the lawyers who are familiar with passenger rights matters. Actually, it is similar to hiring a lawyer in a dispute.
But why does it need the support of lawyers? After all, it is a regulation and every passenger should simply be able to make his claim from the airline himself.
Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Several customers of cancelled.ch have tried this for the time being and have been rebuffed by the airlines. The often very strange explanations of why exactly in this or that case the regulation should not apply surprise even the experts of cancelled.ch again and again. Dubious technical problems are often declared to be “exceptional circumstances” which should release the airline from its obligation to pay. As a “gesture of goodwill”, a small voucher is offered in the hope that the customer will be satisfied and close their complaint.
There are also airlines where it is practically impossible for customers to reach them at all. Either it is very difficult to find the correct address on their website or the airline does not respond to the request at all.
If the airline customer is treated this way, it’s no wonder that there are portals like cancelled.ch that Alexandre de Juniac dislikes so much!
What exactly does cancelled.ch do?
On the cancelled.ch website, the customer can submit his case via an online form. The customer is informed immediately after submitting whether this can be accepted in principle. This means that it is checked which route the flight has taken, how many kilometres this route was and whether the flight is entitled to compensation by law.
The passenger rights experts will then examine the case more closely, and the customer will soon be informed as to whether cancelled.ch can represent the claim.
If this is the case, cancelled.ch will take over the claim with the airline after consultation with the customer. Often a lot of mails and letters go back and forth between the airline and cancelled until it is a success for the customer. The advantage of this approach, however, is that cancelled.ch’s experts know the airlines’ tricks and excuses very well and are therefore much more likely to enforce the claim.
The criticism of the portals, which fight for the enforcement of the air passenger rights regulation, does not really have hand and foot. Perhaps Mr Juniac of IATA meant that he would prefer to see each individual customer have to hire a lawyer if an airline refuses or simply does not respond to demands. This would probably prevent many airline customers from taking further action. Good for the airline, bad for the customer. Not exactly consumer-friendly.
But in what way the services of portals such as cancelled.ch, as IATA boss Alexandre de Juniac says, are scams, we have no yet found…