The more I think about it, I really can’t overstate how lucky it was that my European flight was cancelled.
When You Find Out Your Flight is Cancelled
My boyfriend and I had been on a month-long European exploration, and were set to return home from Portugal with a layover in Paris, before returning to New York. It felt bittersweet for such a grand adventure to come to an end… but then again I did need clean socks.
Our layover in Paris was long enough that we made the hour long trek from Orly Airport into the city & got to play tourists for a few hours. We quickly climbed the Eiffel Tower, sauntered through the Jardin du Tuileries, hit up the outside of the Louvre for photo ops, and ate crepes while lounging by the Seine. Several hours.
As evening set in, we rushed back to the airport on the metro and breathlessly made it to the check-in counter… to see the words “Flight Cancellation” flashing on the screen overhead! I read it once, twice, a third time. Yep, our flight was definitely cancelled. Immediately a feeling of stress and uncertainty crept over me. Were we going to lose money and have to shell out even more on a last-minute hotel?! Buuuut then I took a few deep breaths and began to lean on my knowledge & resources as a travel agent.
Travel Hiccup Resolved
I waited in the line that was beginning to form to speak to the airline representative at the counter. My first question was why exactly was the flight cancelled? Technical issue. That was GREAT news to hear, and I’ll get into why shortly…
The airline didn’t have anymore similar flights for that day, but we were immediately offered a voucher for a complimentary stay at a nearby hotel, including dinner & breakfast. Not a bad start! But luckily I had some knowledge up my sleeve that got us much, much more.
My boyfriend and I navigated a local bus over to the hotel, being sure to keep the receipt for the bus tickets. (That would become a common theme over the next few days.) After checking-in, I looked-up the schedule for the airline’s upcoming flights. It was currently a Tuesday… the comparable flight for Wednesday was sold out… there were no similar flights on Thursday… so Friday it was. I called the airline directly to confirm that we would be reimbursed for all hotel, transportation & food costs. Affirmative.
The next step was to book a last-minute hotel for the following nights. Like I mentioned before, Orly Airport is a trek away from the first arrondissement. I booked us a reasonably priced place in the fourth arrondissement — a stone’s throw from the Notre Dame Cathedral.
The NEXT step was the best one of all: soak in an unexpected, comped Parisien vacation. Our 3-day itinerary will have to be a blog post in and of itself. But we took the opportunity to tour the Louvre, try escargot (my boyfriend that is — I’m vegetarian), traverse Versailles, climb to the top of the Sacre Coeur, and so much more. My favorite thing might have been having picnics of wine, cheese, baguettes, and olives on the banks of the Seine at sunset.
Homeward Bound, aka When the Magic Happens
But arriving back home is what I’m really here to tell you about. Once back at my desk, I immediately filed a claim with the airline, photographing & uploading all of those receipts. I was expecting reimbursement for the costs of all accommodations, food, and transport over those three days. Next I worked a little magic.
As a travel agent, I was familiar with a little something called EC 261/2004. This is a law put in place by the European Parliament & Council of the European Union to safeguard travelers in the region. Basically it states that for any European flights, if there are delays or cancellations that cost passengers over three hours, they are owed the reimbursements I talked about above, plus additional compensation from the airline. The delay/cancellation also must be due to a circumstance within the control of the airline, which a technical issue is considered to be.
It obviously gets more complicated and depends on the specifics of the situation, but my situation happened to be the most drastic. Because of that, I knew to contact the airline again and claim an additional 600 euro per person! So not only did my boyfriend and I have a free vacation extension in an expensive international city, but we got paid to do it!
My Point Is…
My point in saying all of this is to let you know that I have only learned all of this as a travel agent. Within my line of work, I spend a lot of time corresponding with other agents and reading the latest industry news. I have become wayyyy more comfortable calling 1-800 numbers and asking to speak to the right people. In the particular situation I described above, only a fraction of Americans ever claim their easy cash. Many third party services have cropped up to advise on this specific law, but they will take a fraction of the compensation in return.
Why not simply put your vacation in the hands of a travel expert who will advise you every step of the way, no matter what type of travel mishap arises? This is just one of many benefits to booking through a travel agent.
As your travel agent, I will be able to answer your call when something goes wrong, and I will handle it while you get back to what you paid for — enjoying your vacation!!