The odds show that even modest air travellers will eventually suffer delays, encounter cancellations or have luggage lost and arrive on holidays with nothing but a hankie in their pocket.
Unexpected events happen all the time and even to airlines. However when something goes wrong in the system, air passengers often feel that they have entered a poker game with embarrassingly low hands.
The following few paragraphs aim to put some airlines' answers to passengers in perspective, and differentiate plausible excuses from those that would be more suited to stand-up comedy shows.
1. Unexpected flight safety shortcomings
Do you find yourself puzzled about this phrase? So does the writer of this article. That's because in real terms it has absolutely no meaning. Unexpected flight safety shortcomings that airlines excuse themselves from delays and cancellations could mean almost anything from a pilot turning up to work inebriated to God having a bad day.
EU Law gives air passengers rights to financial compensation in case of flight disruptions caused by airlines. So no one should get deterred by linguistic exercises staged by some airlines.
2. Bad weather
Quite often frustrated passengers, sitting in an airport lounge waiting for the next announcement concerning their own delayed flight, will face the further indignity of watching other companies' planes flying happily off into the distance.
These same passengers, upon submitting a complaint, will be staggered to learn from their helpful airline that the delay they suffered was in fact caused by severe weather conditions that made flying impossible.
Weather is indeed a factor of joy or annoyance in all doings and even more so for the airline industry. Nevertheless, as an air passenger one would expect the airline to come up with the truthful evidence when flights get delayed and cancelled. If in doubt, take a photo of airport information screens showing all airport traffic while you are waiting.
3. Shortage of crew
Strict time limits apply to crews operating aircrafts. This is normally 12 hours in service as maximum. We wouldn't want to have pilots napping in cockpits while carrying their precious load to Lanzarote's all-inclusive.
Airlines have sophisticated systems in place ensuring that when an employee goes ill, or is not fit to fly for one reason or another, a replacement is available immediately minimising flight disruptions.
If your compensation claim for a delayed flight is denied on the grounds of shortage of crew, the airline is probably telling the truth. Unfortunately, telling the truth is not good enough. It is the airline's responsibility to organise its own operations and staff so that passengers arrive at their destinations on time.
4. A two-year claim limit
EU law gives passengers the right to claim compensation of up to €600 for disrupted flights as far as 9 years back. However, the various EU member states all have different jurisdictions imposing time limits on litigating consumer-related disagreements. For instance, UK law gives claimants 6 years to bring their claims to court.
This 6 year period has been upheld not only by English courts, but also by the European Court of Justice in relation to cases of this nature.
Do not get fobbed off by airlines telling you that the limitation period is only 2 years - whichever way you look at it this is simply not the case.
5. Baggage delayed or lost by airport staff
Not having anything to wear is most unfortunate - and on some occasions most inappropriate. Baggage sorting systems are not run by hands, but by scanners and computers.
So having it misplaced is most certainly not the fault of those guys you see carelessly chucking your fragile-item-filled bags into the loading compartment of an aircraft. Never mind that - airlines are always responsible.
This is by nature of law - and because you have probably paid a hefty sum for the certainty that your checked-in luggage will get to the same destination as your plane.
Passengers can receive up to €1,200 for lost luggage, so make sure you report it upon discovery and keep evidence.
Most of all, it's important to remember that you do have rights and, while airlines will do everything in their power to make it difficult for you to claim compensation against them, there is help available for you to hold them to account when their service falls short.