This year’s World Cup has been a nail-biter, filled with all the goals, drama, upsets, and record-breakers one could hope for. Not only are underdogs like Costa Rica blowing out strong teams like England, Italy and Uruguay, but even the Americans are getting on board with a nail-biting defeat by Belgium and a recording breaking performance by their star keeper, Tim Howard.
As with every world cup, airlines all over Europe are dealing with a huge outflow of fans to the host country, Brazil.
• Since last summer, airlines have added 17 new routes to Brazil’s World Cup host cities and people are using them.
• Throughout June and the first two days of July over 330,000 die-hard football fans have flown from Europe to Brazil and thousands more are headed there now with the quarter-finals firmly in their sites. (France, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands have all made it to the quarter-finals.)
• Both Madrid and Paris have logged over 60,000 seats on direct flights to São Paulo so far, and Frankfurt and London are both past the 40,000 mark.
What Could Go Wrong?
While it’s amazing that the airlines have been able to handle the upsurge in travellers, not everyone has had glitch-free travel: England fans faced dozens of flight cancellations and delays of up to 36 hours while traveling to their match against Uruguay on June 19th. More than a quarter of all flights from Rio’s domestic airport Santos Dumont were cancelled right as fans needed to travel to São Paulo for the match. Dex Marshall, 53, from East Sussex is quoted in The Telegraph that “It has been chaos. We booked ourselves on several different flights because we anticipated problems, and all of them were cancelled.”
What’s worse, it’s not only flights on the Brazilian end of things that are having problems–travellers throughout Europe are faced long delays and numerous flight cancellations due to the air traffic controllers’ strikes in France and Belgium. Popular airlines Ryanair, British Airways and EasyJet all reported flight cancellations and delays last week and Ryanair alone had to cancel 15% of its 1,600 scheduled flights last Wednesday. Throw in the average amount of flight delays caused by weather and airport conditions in Brazil (the cause of up to 70% of delays on that end) and it’s enough to give you a hangover before you even sip your first caipirinha. And let’s face it, knowing that it’s not your airline’s fault doesn’t alleviate the disappointment when you miss the match you travelled halfway across the world to see.
Luckily, European law allows for some compensation for any flight that is delayed, cancelled or overbooked (as long as it originated) in the EU. You can get between €125-€600 per passenger, depending on the distance of your flight and the length of the delay at your final destination. Of course, figuring out it you’re eligible is not always so easy, and filing the claims can be even more confusing, but the money is out there– In general 2% of all flights to/from Europe are entitled to compensation. It may not be the same as watching live as Germany and France go head-to-head, but it’s something. Think of it like Tim Howard breaking the World Cup record for goals saved during a match (15) a record while his team gets ousted out of the quarter-finals—at least it’s not a complete loss.
What to Do If Something Happens During Your Flight
The first thing to do if you’re an EU citizen and you experience a flight that is delayed, cancelled or overbooked is know Your rights. If you’re still not sure if you qualify for the compensation, you can always search your inbox and see if you have eligible claims or use the web form to submit to start a claim . (Of course, a healthy dose of patience and maybe drinking your country’s equivalent of a caipirinha might also help.)
And while suspense, surprise and one dramatic twist after another in the World Cup can lead to a heightened enjoyment of the game, it’s the last thing one wants when one is travelling. Know your rights and what you’re entitled to if things go wrong.