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Finnair flights often late and firm stumbles to reimburse customers, claims company says

AirHelp Finland says Finnair ranks near the bottom of the class regarding passenger reimbursements and staying on schedule.

Laskeutuva matkustajakone
File photo of Finnair aircraft over trees. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

More than half of flights operated by national carrier Finnair do not depart on time and the firm rarely reimburses customers without a fuss, according to AirHelp, a company helping passengers receive their due compensation in the event of flight delays or cancellations.

AirHelp's Finland country chief, Aleksi Seppo, said Finnair performed nearly the worst in its class in regard to reimbursements as well as staying on schedule.

The firm's analysis of air travel schedules showed that Finnair's ability to stay on schedule for flights lasting longer than five hours was among the worst in the world, with just 45 percent of such flights departing on time. A flight is considered to be "on time" if it departs within a maximum of 15 minutes of the announced departure time.

Among 75 airlines around the world, Finnair ranked 61st in terms of keeping to schedule, according to AirHelp.

Both Scandinavian flag carrier SAS (at 52.6% on-time) as well as budget airline Norwegian (at 48.4% on-time) ranked somewhat better in the survey than Finnair.

Meanwhile Hong Kong Airlines, at 83.6 percent on-time, ranked at the top of the list, according to AirHelp.

Seppo said flight cancellations and delays have been increasing for airlines in general over the past few years. Over half of some 4.4 million long-distance flights were more than 15 minutes late or cancelled outright.

"Those are huge numbers," Seppo said.

Compensation figures

EU rules, specifically the EC 261 directive, give compensation rights to air travellers who face delays or cancellations during their journeys.

The directive stipulates that airlines are liable to pay reimbursements to passengers on long-distance flights when extensive delays are caused by the airlines themselves and not by force majeure situations.

The flights affected by the compensation rules are ones which depart from within the EU. If a flight is returning from outside the bloc, the airline needs to be based in the EU.

Generally, the compensation fees airlines are forced to fork out in such cases is 600 euros per passenger.

However, Seppo said airlines will often stall reimbursement claims.

AirHelp's survey found that Finnair rejects 67 percent of all the compensation applications it receives, which ranks it 36th out of 46 airlines.

Norwegian tosses out slightly more reimbursement cases (68 percent), but SAS was found to reject just 22 percent of compensation applications.

Last year Finland’s Market Court began hearing a case brought by the Consumer Ombudsman against Finnair over its compensation practices regarding delays caused by equipment malfunctions.

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