Press Release: New consumer survey finds airline passengers facing widespread delays and luggage problems

27 April 2017

Press Release                                                                                                                                                   27 April 2017, 11am CET

New consumer survey finds airline passengers facing widespread delays and luggage problems

A new international survey of airline passengers reveals:

  • 1 in 4 flights delayed.
  • 1 in ten people had their luggage lost, damaged or delayed.
  • Less than half of passengers received assistance or compensation.

An international consumer survey of 11,000 passengers from eight countries (Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain) and including more than 20,000 flight experiences during 2016, has revealed widespread flight delays and lost luggage problems.

The research, conducted by a coalition of Consumers International members, found that 6% of the flights had a delay of at least two hours. Despite the fact at this the point EU regulations require airlines to provide assistance, such as food and drink, only 46% of passengers received it.

Airline companies also failed to meet their obligations when the delay was over three hours. In 75% of these cases passengers were not reimbursed as per EU law.

In the case of delays, 10% of delayed passengers suffered some financial loss as a result of the delay (for instance a missed train, excursion or hotel accommodation that was already paid for). In more than half of these cases, the amount of money lost was over €100. At present, there is no legislation protecting consumers against such financial damage.

In cases where luggage was lost, damaged or delayed in the EU, rules covering passengers’ reimbursements were not applied in 85% of the cases. The situation has only slightly improved over the last few years; a similar survey done in 2009 reported 93% of passengers didn’t get reimbursed. There are no common worldwide rules obliging airlines to refund passengers for lost or damaged luggage.

The coalition of consumer groups behind the study, all part of Consumers International, a global federation of consumer organisations, are now asking authorities to improve passengers’ understanding of their rights and support enforcement of airlines’ obligations to compensate passengers for delays and loss, delay or damage of luggage.

Amanda Long, Director General, Consumers International, said: “Flight delays and cancellations are not merely an inconvenience, they have real world implications. They are a missed business meeting, less time with family, a trip cut short. It is only fair that people affected by cancellations and delays are compensated accordingly and that airlines recognise these responsibilities. If they don’t then authorities must act to enforce the legislation. Consumers also need to be aware of their rights and to fight for those rights to be realised. Around the world our member consumer rights organisations can ready to help them do just that.”

To find out more about passenger rights and how to claim compensation visit Consumers International’s flight resources webpage.

Notes to editors

Consumers International brings together over 200 member organisations in more than 100 countries to empower and champion the rights of consumers everywhere. We are their voice in international policy-making forums and the global marketplace to ensure they are treated safely, fairly and honestly.

The survey was devised by Consumers International member Euroconsumers with responses gathered from Altroconsumo in Italy, DECO PROTESTE in Portugal, OCU Ediciones in Spain, Test-Achats/ Test-Aankoop in Belgium, UFC Que Choisir in France, CHOICE in Australia, Proteste in Brazil and the Danish Consumer Council in Denmark.

A delay is defined in the flight transportation sector as at least 15 minutes after the scheduled time of arrival.

Data was collected through two versions of the same questionnaire, one in paper and one online. Only people who flew during the 12 previous months were asked to fill in the questionnaire.
The minimum number of observations in order to include an airline company or an airport in the analysis was fixed to 25.
Postal questionnaire answer rate:

Online questionnaire

Online questionnaires have been sent to country samples of members through individual emails during October 2016. In Brazil, and additional extra file of non-members was used as well.

Online questionnaire answer rate: