Check Compensation
Sneaky Ways Airlines Try to Get Out of Paying Compensation

Sneaky Ways Airlines Try to Get Out of Paying Compensation

Has your flight compensation claim been denied? Or is it taking forever to get resolved by the airline? Denying compensation claims for vague reasons or adding unnecessary bureaucracy are just a few sneaky ways airlines try to get out of paying passengers the compensation they’re rightfully owed.

What is the reason they do this? In many cases, it works.

Passengers who are exhausted after flight delays on a long trip often don’t have the energy to dispute a claim. Or they don’t even know their rights when it comes to airline compensation.

Below, we’ll cover some of the more creative ways that we’ve seen airlines try to get out of paying compensation for cancelled or delayed flights, plus how to tell if this may be happening to you.

Sneaky trick #1: Making false claims about reasons for a flight delay – even for the same flight they issued refunds for

Airlines aren’t obligated to pay compensation for flights delayed or cancelled due to reasons beyond their control. Since they know this, they frequently use this loophole to their advantage and deny passenger compensation claims due to “extraordinary circumstances” or “bad weather."

In fact, airlines have been known to approve some compensation claims and deny some others from passengers on the same flight.

For example, in March, Edelweiss approved compensation of €1,800 for a flight from Cancun to Zurich, acknowledging that the delay was due to technical difficulties on a flight on a previous rotation. However, another passenger on the same flight had his claim denied, with an email from Edelweiss claiming the same flight was delayed due to the weather.

In other cases, WestJet and Air Canada have denied some passengers’ claims and then approved the claims of their travel partners. In these cases, the partners whose claims were denied got vague reasons such as “operational issues.”

These cases suggest that some compensation claims aren’t getting proper evaluation, and instead may be carelessly rejected for incorrect reasons.

Sneaky trick #2: Claiming passenger signatures on passport and compensation forms are “too different”

In one case, Turkish Airlines (an airline notorious for avoiding compensation claims) argued that the signatures on a passport and authorization form were different – even when it was obvious that the forms were signed by the same person.

The airline rejected the passenger’s compensation claim, but the fact that the signatures were clearly from the same person suggests that the airline was actively avoiding their responsibility to pay.

Although you might not see this exact tactic happen everywhere, it’s not uncommon for airlines to use malicious bureaucracy to avoid paying out compensation.

Sneaky trick #3: Offering cash compensation (that’s less than the airline is legally required to pay)

In other cases, airlines will offer travel vouchers to settle claims. But sometimes, the vouchers are less than what the passenger is legally entitled to.

In October, Air Canada began reaching out to passengers whose claims were stuck in the Canadian Transportation Agency’s backlog of flight delay compensation claims with vouchers worth much less than their claim.

For example, one passenger was offered $225 in cash (or a $400 voucher) to settle a $1,483 claim. While the passenger didn’t accept the offer, some passengers waiting in the backlog do accept in order to get paid faster.

In this case, the airline is taking advantage of the slow complaints resolution process to avoid having to pay the full fee. They know that many passengers who need money now will accept cash settlements rather than wait another year.

Sneaky trick #4: Citing vague reasons for the flight delay that may even contradict each other

In many cases, airlines will use vague reasons to explain flight cancellations and delays such as “extraordinary circumstances.” This often makes passengers assume that the delay isn’t eligible for compensation, even when it may be.

Some passengers have noticed that when the delay is announced, the airline says one thing – “weather conditions,” or a “labour dispute” – but then the reason changes with each communication.

That’s a red flag that the airline is just making up reasons rather than telling passengers the truth about why the flight is delayed. In many cases, passengers who take airlines to court find that the airline doesn’t even defend their claim in the end, likely because they didn’t have evidence to begin with.

How do I know if I’m entitled to compensation?

While it’s true that many airlines try to get out of paying compensation, it’s also true that airlines are sometimes genuinely exempt from doing so. Inclement weather, air traffic control issues, and factory issues with aircraft happen all the time.

So how do you know if you’re entitled to compensation or not?

Even if you don’t check your claim, there can be some telltale signs that airlines aren’t being forthright with the reason for the delay. For example:

  • If the reason changes over the course of the airline’s communications about the delay, particularly if the reasons seem unrelated to each other (for example, in one email they claim technical difficulties, while another claims weather issues).
  • If communications about the reason for the delay seem vague or confusing, such as citing “extraordinary circumstances” rather than being specific.
  • If the airline is handing out cash vouchers or other gifts in order to settle claims. Keep in mind that airlines do legally need to provide food and lodging in some cases for delays over two hours – but this often doesn’t come in the form of cash.

Finally, you can get advice from our experts at Click2Refund any time. Simply describe your situation, and we’ll tell you whether or not we believe you may be entitled to compensation.

What can passengers do to fight back?

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to fight for your claim if you think you may be entitled to compensation. Here are three important things you can do right now if your flight has been delayed or cancelled:

  1. Check your claim: In some cases, it’s as easy as checking your claim online at Click2Refund. We track information for popular flights to keep records of what flight delays and cancellations may be the airline’s fault.
  2. Know your rights: In many countries around the world, air travellers have rights to compensation when flights are delayed or cancelled. Whether you’re flying in the EU, the UK, Canada, or Brazil, you have similar rights under the Montreal Convention.
  3. Save your documentation: Save all relevant communications from the airline; these can be useful later if you need proof of your claim. You should also save receipts relating to any food or hotel expenses you incurred due to a flight delay or cancellation.
  4. Get help: With Click2Refund, you can avoid the hassle of navigating airlines’ bureaucracy and avoidance schemes. Airlines know that Click2Refund’s law experts won’t be fooled by bogus reasons for flight delays and cancellations – so they’re more likely to pay compensation right away when the request comes from a professional.

One final point: don’t give up! Even if your flight delay was months ago, you can probably still claim compensation for it. Next, we’ll take a brief, deeper dive into your rights as a passenger around the world.

More about your rights as an airline passenger

Don’t know what your rights are in the first place? Here’s a brief summary of your rights in various countries. These rules apply if the flight delay is within the airline’s control – so they might not apply in cases of extreme weather, air traffic control issues, and security issues at the airport.

European Union (EU)

Under EC 261/2004, passengers are entitled to compensation for delays over three hours, cancellations, and denied boarding. Compensation ranges from €250 to €600 based on flight distance, and airlines also have to offer meals, refreshments, and accommodation if necessary.

United States (US)

The US doesn’t have federal regulations requiring airlines to compensate passengers for delayed or canceled flights. But airlines are required to make the refund in full for cancelled flights in 7 days for credit card payments and in 21 days for other methods of payment. This rule also applies for delayed flights if the passenger doesn’t accept the alternative flight offered. (delay must be 3 hours for domestic flights and 6 hours for international flights)

United Kingdom (UK)

Post-Brexit, the UK has created its own version of the EU's EC 261/2004 regulations, which are essentially the same. This means passengers flying from the UK with any airline or with a UK airline from the EU and from third countries are covered under the same compensation rules as those in the EU, with up to £520 in compensation for significant disruptions.


Under the Canadian Air Passenger Protection Regulations, passengers are entitled to compensation up to CAD $2,400 for flight delays, cancellations and denial of boardings. Like in other countries, airlines must also provide food, drink, and accommodation where necessary.


In Brazil, the ANAC 400 regulation ensures passengers are entitled to compensation if they are denied boarding, and they must be rebooked on the next available flight or receive a refund. In addition, Brazil lets passengers claim “moral damages” due to mistreatment or stress the airline caused.

Why are there so many flight delays anyway?

With all the hassle it causes for both airlines and passengers, you might be wondering: why can’t airlines just do everything in their power to avoid delays in the first place? After all, over half of flight delays are the airline’s fault – suggesting there’s something more going on rather than extraordinary circumstances out of airlines’ control.

Here are a few reasons why we’re seeing more flight delays:

  1. There’s more air traffic than before. Although the pandemic did significantly disrupt the airline industry, it’s bouncing back fast – in 2024, the ICAO predicts that airline traffic will surpass pre-Covid levels, which were already at a record high. That leaves less room for error in scheduling flights and processing passengers at airports.
  2. There’s a staffing shortage. Airlines that had to pause during Covid haven’t been able to re-hire enough staff to make up for a skyrocketing demand. That means less pilots, technicians, and support staff to go around. If staff leave or get sick, there is less of a window of opportunity to find someone to replace them.
  3. Consumer patterns are changing. Airlines are now trying to keep up with changes in consumer patterns that stem from remote work. Since consumers with remote and hybrid jobs have more options, this also opens up the door to more air traffic and different peak travel times than before.

Add in climate change, political instability, and tightened security protocols, and processes are more complex at airlines and airports.

How can Click2Refund help?

If your compensation claim has been denied, keep one thing in mind: statistically speaking, it’s probably their fault. Even if they have told you the flight was delayed due to reasons beyond their control, it’s always a good idea to double check with a third party just in case.

That’s where Click2Refund comes in.

In addition to helping, you determine whether or not you’re eligible for compensation, we can help win compensation on your behalf. We do all of the legwork to submit your claim and challenge it if necessary, and even take it to court if we think it will win.

We also operate on a no-win, no-fee basis, meaning that you only pay a percentage of your compensation if we win your claim. If your claim is legitimately denied and you aren’t entitled to compensation, you won’t pay out of pocket for our service.

Remember: Don’t take airlines at their word

If there’s one takeaway, it’s this: don’t take airlines’ reasons for delays and cancellations at face value. Even if the airline’s reason sounds convincing, they may be trying to get out of paying you compensation you’re rightfully owed.

And if your claim is denied by the airline, remember ultimately, it’s not up to them. If the airline is responsible for the delay, they must legally pay you for the inconvenience. You’ve paid them well for a service you’re depending on for a vacation, for work, for a move, or for a family reunion. At Click2Refund, we believe that airlines should deliver the service they promised to passengers.

So remember, if an airline denies your claim, take it with a grain of salt! Talk to us today if you think you might be entitled to compensation – we’ll be happy to fight for your compensation on your behalf.

Written by: Click2Refund