The compensation airlines pay for delayed and cancelled flights is calculated not in millions, but in billions of euros.

Everything indicates that in future years the amount of compensation paid to passengers will grow at a dizzying pace. The total sum that carriers had to pay in 2018 is 17.6 billion euros. It is no surprise then that airlines do whatever they can to try and avoid having to pay possible compensation when the opportunity arises.

Shockingly flights that have been delayed can deny boarding to a few passengers (who can claim compensation for being denied boarding) just to avoid further delays and having to pay compensation to all who were on board.

Read also: Compensation for charter flight delays. Do you claim from the airline or the travel agent?

The crew of one of the charter carriers reports: We arrive at our destination on an evening flight with a slight delay. This has a knock on effect for the next day. In order to comply with safety regulations the pilots rest time in a hotel has been pushed back and they will not be able to fly safely again until after their scheduled departure. It is clear that the return flight scheduled for 7 am will not take off. We are about to depart with passengers at 9.30. The crew is aware that we are only 30 minutes from exceeding the 3-hour delay, for which the carrier will have to pay high compensation. The aircraft will also be flying several other routes that day. If the first flight was delayed, all subsequent flights will also be at risk. The captain makes the decision to make up for the delay wherever possible – not just in the air. The head of the cabin crew is instructed to end boarding ahead of time. Although some passengers are not yet on board it is more profitable to pay compensation to a few people who are denied boarding, than to risk having to compensate all who are on board.

The record holder for flight compensation in 2018 was Ryanair, which paid its passengers a total of EUR 699.7 million. EasyJet was ranked second with 455,3 million euros, followed by Lufthansa with 391,9 million euros.  It is good that refunds are being paid out but it must be remembered that each passenger being compensated has their own story as to what the flight delay meant to them. At we have heard of missed job interviews, missed weddings, religious ceremonies and funerals. Business women have missed vital meetings and there are the sporting events and concerts for which tickets have been purchased.

Read also: Airlines often withhold information from passengers in order to avoid paying compensation.

Everything indicates that in the next years will only get worse. Eurocontrol, the European agency that manages the air space, predicts that in 2019 the number of delayed flights will increase by as much as 50%. The main reason for such terrible statistics is the lack of air traffic controllers who could help handle the increasing number of flights in the European skies.

Is the shortage of flight controllers a circumstance that exempts airlines from paying compensation? This theoretically is not the fault of the carrier, but in practice they have to pay for it. Kenny Jacobs, marketing director of Ryanair stated at a press conference that this is unfair. The responsibility for delays lies with flight control, but unfortunately the law means that the airline pays.

It is estimated that one euro of each airline ticket is taken to cover flight compensation and this is a figure set to rise.