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Short story: Air Berlin went on strike last October - we got home 15hours later - Air Berlin have said euro air passenger rights penalty/rewards are optional, they also said flight was cancelled due to lighting strike, and they offered 2x300euro gift vouchers. I declined, we want the cash. They refuse. What more can I do?

Longer story: Last October we flew Hamburg Majorca for vacation. We checked in for our return flight, and while at airside all flights for the airline (Air Berlin) got cancelled. No official announcements were made. Staff left desks. For multiple Majorca flights going to Germany by Air Berlin. Monitors showed the words Delayed. Some flights showed cancelled. Some flights just disappeared from the screen.

Two staff appeared three hours after our flight departure and distributed a single pre-printed letter explaining our passenger rights. They had no news to update us on when our flights might fly, nor any reason why the flights were cancelled.

A number of online news outlets said Air Berlin staff were on strike.

Some 12 hours later a chartered plane was arranged, we flew back to Hannover and jumped on a bus that brought us to Hamburg Airport.

Based on the letter Air Berlin shared with me, and based on http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/passenger-rights/air/index_en.htm I calculated that the flight was more than 1500km and thus we should get paid 2x400euro in cash.

The URL on the preprinted letter I got from Air Berlin was invalid. Eventually I found and complained, and requested they pay the 2x400euro penalty to my bank account.

They apologised, then told me the penalty was optional for airlines to pay, and instead offered 2x300euro discount vouchers instead.

I replied, declined the gift vouchers, reminded them of the passenger rights, and again requested payment to my bank account.

The replied that the flight was cancelled due to inbound flight being struck by lightening - thus they need not pay me anything at all.

I replied with photos, online info that proved the flights were cancelled due to a flight but they decline to pay.

Can anyone advise what might next steps should be?

Thanks

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Any compensation would be under the guise of EU regulation EC No 261/2004. Under the assumption that they claim the cancellation is due to Extraordinary Circumstances, then "compensation is not due if the carrier can prove that the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken". Non-exhaustive examples of such circumstances are "air traffic management decisions, political instability, adverse weather conditions and security risks". Lightening is clearly such a circumstance, and a strike probably is (since there is no legal requirement to always accede to union demands). Legal recourse is via the relevant national authority, apparently LBA in this case. They indicate that they will make an initial assessment. The ultimate recourse is a lawsuit against the airline.

  • So called Acts of God like lighting is understandable but not the truth. Their freight logs report delays due to strike, not weather. And as they arranged a charter flight (called a "wet crew" I believe in the industry, where you can hire 'no-name' plane and crew in a single package) was arranged. They could have planned for this earlier to avoid a 12hour departure delay. I guess I will raise with the LBA and see where it goes. Thanks! – fiprojects Apr 25 '17 at 17:14

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