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Number of air travel consumer complaints up

Passengers at Tallinn Airport.
Passengers at Tallinn Airport. Source: Patrik Tamm / ERR

The Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) admits that air travel complaints have become more numerous in recent months. The agency is processing over a hundred complaints.

"The number of complaints associated with air travel and passenger rights is higher than usual right now," Kristina Tammaru, head of the consumer advice department of the TTJA, told ERR.

"We are working on more than 100 air travel complaints right now. The number of complaints differs from one period to the next. For example, a chartered flight being delayed at Tallinn Airport is immediately reflected in our work. We are receiving daily complaints about flights that were delayed in April and May," Tammaru said.

Most complaints concern longer delays, while people also ask about cancellation, baggage claim delays, not being allowed on board etc.

Tammaru said that people usually turn to the TTJA for adviser about passenger rights and how to act in various situations.

Problems need to be solved by local authorities

Tammaru emphasized that consumer disputes are solved locally in the country where the problem was created.

"If the passenger fails to reach an understanding with the carrier and finds their rights have been violated, an incident-based approach needs to be taken. It means that disputes need to be resolved by the implementing agency or extrajudicial mediator of the country where the incident -- delay, cancellation or being denied the right to board -- occurred," Tammaru said. "That is why the TTJA and the Consumer Disputes Committee cannot process complaints over incidents in other countries' airports. What we can do is give advice and point people to the competent authorities."

Concerning incidents in Estonia, the agency contacts the airline to determine the circumstances of the complaint, whether the delay or cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances that exempt carriers from having to pay compensation etc.

Contact airline in case of problems

Tammaru said that problems during air travel first need to be reported to the airline as the latter is obligated to offer the passenger a replacement flight, accommodation and compensation if they are entitled to it.

"Unfortunately, airports can have very long queues and it might take forever to reach the service desk," Tammaru remarked. Should it prove impossible to contact the airline, and should the passenger need to buy new tickets or pay for accommodation themselves, the receipts need to be kept and a complaint for compensation filed later, the TTJA department chief said.

She recommended using direct flights as a way to avoid problems or book the entire trip through a single airline and avoid mixing and matching different carriers when looking for flights online.

"People should also buy travel insurance and read the conditions carefully to make sure which types of emergencies their insurance covers.

The number of airline passengers has exploded in Europe after the coronavirus crisis, which is why airports and airlines that were forced to cut staff are unable to promptly serve all passengers that has led to a higher than usual number of flight cancellations and delays.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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