A mechanical problem delays Mary Vogel’s flight from Chicago to Madrid. The airline promises her compensation. It never arrives. Where is her Iberia flight compensation?

Q: I recently flew from Chicago to Santiago, Spain, via Madrid on Iberia Airlines. The airline delayed the first leg of my outbound flight by more than four hours because of “mechanical” issues. Iberia notified me that I was entitled to up to $1,350 per person in compensation, payable that day.

I did not receive compensation that day. A representative told me to file a claim in Madrid, which I did. A month passed and I heard nothing from Iberia. We tried reaching out to the airline again and have also contacted American Airlines, which sold us the original ticket. American has just referred us back to Iberia.

I’d like the compensation Iberia promised me. I’m filing claims on behalf of five passengers on the same flight, which is a considerable amount of money. Can you help us? — Mary Vogel, Glenview, Illinois

A: Iberia should have paid your claim promptly. By the time you contacted me, three months had passed. That’s way too long to pay a claim under the European airline consumer protection regulation.

That regulation, called EC 261, requires airlines to compensate passengers for delays. And you’re lucky, because in the early days of EC 261, airlines used to deny such claims, insisting that mechanical delays were exempt from the regulation. Fortunately, the European courts disagreed.


For a flight such as yours, which covered a distance of more than 3,500 km (about 2,175 miles), EC 261 specifies compensation of 600 euros per passenger. For Iberia, each passenger should make the request individually through its website. You can also file a complaint through Agencia Estatal de Seguridad Aerea, the Spanish aviation regulators. If that doesn’t work, you can appeal to an Iberia executive. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the key Iberia executives on my consumer-advocacy website, Elliott.org.

The problem is, the European regulations don’t set a deadline for airlines to pay compensation. So you could spend weeks, even months, waiting for a promised check. In our experience, Spanish aviation authorities don’t get involved until several months have passed. Even when they do, there appears to be no law that says Iberia must pay up quickly. As a result, some claims take close to forever.

Hey, at least you had a rule like EC 261. You wouldn’t if you were flying domestically. Here, airlines can delay you as long as they like and they don’t have to pay you anything. Now that should be illegal.

You contacted Iberia again using the information I gave you. The airline responded five months after your flight with a check of 600 euros for each passenger.