If a flight is cancelled, passengers are entitled to compensation under certain conditions according to EU law. It does not say anywhere that passengers must be human, though.
Jesper Rungholm is angry. And he cannot quite believe what has just happened. «It’s not a joke», the MD-80 captain and CEO of the Danish charter airline Danish Air Transport DAT tells aeroTELEGRAPH.
It all started on 14 January with technical problems before a morning flight on the route from Palermo to Lampedusa. The flight had to be cancelled. And because the problems were technical, passengers were entitled to compensation.
There was power of attorney over Jack
One of those passengers was named Jack. All the forms are filled out correctly and there is power of attorney over Jack. But there was no signature from Jack himself. Because Jack is not human – and now he is the first dog to receive compensation under the EU regulation 261. The airline must pay him 250 euros. Jack was traveling with a pre purchased «pet in cabin» ticket that had cost 27 Euros.
DAT CEO Rungholm explains why the dog is entitled to the compensation. The Air Passenger Rights Regulation 261 of the European Union regulates under which circumstances airlines are obliged to pay passengers compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight. «It states that a passenger is a holder of a ticket or similar travel documents» And a pet requires to carry travel documents on board. The regulation does not say anywhere that the passenger must be a human being, Rungholm adds.
Compensations can ruin an airline
So DAT is paying – but not without the CEO venting about it. «EU-261 is well known to be a serious disaster and seriously overdue for revision», Rungholm complains. Monserrat Barriga agrees. «This is further proof of the greed of some in detriment of the work of the airlines», adds Montserrat Barriga, Director of the European Regions Airline Association.
Compensation payments can ruin airlines – one example is the insolvency of Small Planet in 2018. The management of the now bankrupt airline cited unexpectedly high compensation payments as a result of the summer of delays as one reason why they had to give up. Rungholm also calls the payments a «serious risk».
«No dog food»
However, he can’t look at the matter without a bit of grim humor. The EU regulation also clearly states that passengers must be taken care of in case of problems. «I am now waiting for the complaint that we did not provide dog food or a suitable water bowl during the wait»