In the event of flight problems, consumers should be able to reach airlines quickly and easily via all important communication channels, especially by e-mail. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case in the summer of 2022. Countless air travellers were stuck in hour-long queues and had to deal with incompetent chatbots. Most times, their e-mail enquiries were left unanswered.
Airlines must provide an e-mail address on their website for their customers to contact them, but many companies do not comply with their obligation under § 5 para. 1 no. 2 of the German Telemedia Act. Flightright has compiled an overview of airlines that cannot be contacted by email at all or are particularly difficult to contact. Some particularly black sheep are already in the sights of the consumer centres, which have filed lawsuits against some airlines.
Lawsuits against airlines because of the lack of e-mail addresses
Consumer centres are already taking legal action against the airlines that make it difficult for passengers to contact them. For example, the Regional Court of Düsseldorf, in a decision dated 17.08.2022, ref. 12 O 219/22, had issued an interim injunction ordering Brussels Airlines to provide an e-mail address for quick electronic contact on its website. The Belgian airline had only provided a contact form on its website, but this did not ensure easy recognition, immediate accessibility, and constant availability of the airline. A customer who only fills out a contact form has no proof of having contacted the airline at all.
E-mail addresses of Lufthansa and Eurowings only in the imprint
The airlines can then more easily claim that they never received an enquiry, complaint, or request for payment from air travellers. According to § 5 para. 1 no. 2 of the German Telemedia Act, all airlines are obliged to provide an e-mail address for contact purposes. Even German airlines often do not make it easy for air travellers to reach them. For example, an e-mail address for Lufthansa, Eurowings and Eurowings Discover can only be found in the imprint. This means that those facing difficulties usually have to laboriously click through the website or the FAQ jungle of the airlines to find any contact data at all. And if they end up discovering that the airline does not provide an e-mail address, this is enormously frustrating, especially in the case of flight problems.
Claudia Brosche, air passenger rights expert at Flightright, says: "The fact that many airlines are still difficult to contact electronically in the digital age is unacceptable for air travellers. If the airline’s staff cannot be reached either at airports or via other communication channels, the frustration of air travellers is more than justified. In this chaotic summer, air travellers of the Lufthansa Group were particularly affected. We have therefore been calling for a long time for many airlines to guarantee air travellers simpler, electronic communication access."
"The fact that many airlines are still difficult to reach electronically in the digital age is unacceptable for air travellers."
If their own flight is affected by problems, air travellers can find a list of ways to contact each airline here. It is striking that of 19 airlines, six (30 per cent) have not indicated an e-mail for contacting them, despite their obligation to do so. Seven airlines, including Lufthansa and Eurowings, do fulfil this obligation, but the e-mail address is indicated in the imprint in a way that is difficult to find for air travellers.
But it is not only the airlines' inaccessibility that is a burden for consumers. Since many air travellers are often unaware of their rights, they are often left to pay the usually higher replacement ticket costs when flights are cancelled. This does not have to be. Claudia Brosche: "In the event of a flight cancellation, air travellers can buy a ticket themselves and have the new ticket costs reimbursed by the airline if the airline does not offer an alternative."
With the new ticket refund service, Flighright helps travellers to recover these extra expenses. Consumers can simply enter the old and new ticket price and other case data there via this link. As soon as all data and the digitally transmitted signature are available, Flightright starts enforcing the claims.