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Consumer Ombudsman sues Finnair over delay compensation practices

Finland's consumer watchdog is taking legal action against Finnair over the airline's policy of denying compensation claims for delays caused by some technical faults. European law mandates set levels of compensation for delays—and the Consumer Ombudsman says Finnair has played fast and loose with those rules.

Finnair logo lentokoneen peräsimessä.
Finnair offers customers insufficient compensation for delays, according to the Consumer Ombudsman. Image: Russell Hart / AOP

The Consumer Ombudsman is to take Finnish airline Finnair to the Market Court over alleged breaches of European law on compensation claims.

A 2004 EU directive says passengers should receive between 250 and 600 euros in compensation, depending on the distance covered by their flight, for delays of more than three hours that are deemed the airline's fault.

The Ombudsman says that Finnair has not been paying out the full cash value of compensation claims when delays are due to unexpected technical issues caused by mechanical or design faults.

In those cases, says the Ombudsman, Finnair offers consumers a voucher or a lower cash payment than the figures laid down in European directives. One of the conditions for receipt of that compensation is that the passenger waives all rights to further compensation.

Injunctions wanted

The Ombudsman is asking the Market Court for three injunctions related to Finnair's compensation handling, and requesting a 500,000 euro fine be applied to each of them.

Finnair's Head of Legal Affairs Sami Sarelius said that the airline is bewildered by the Ombudsman's stance.

"We're confused at the position of the Ombudsman, which is clearly different to that in other European countries," said Sarelius.

Finnair's position is that EU courts have set precedents according to which airlines don't have to pay compensation if the delays or cancellations result from a technical fault caused by design or production mistakes.

The company says it offers payments of cash or vouchers to delayed passengers in these circumstances for 'customer service reasons', as proving the cause of the delay would take a long time.

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