When Iberia Airlines delays Eileen Hopkins’ flight from Madrid to New York, it agrees to pay her and her husband compensation of 600 euros each, as required by law. But where’s the money?

Q: My husband and I recently flew from Madrid to New York on Iberia Airlines. Our flight was delayed by more than four hours. I filed a complaint with Iberia and the Agencia Estatal de Seguridad Aerea (AESA), the Spanish aviation safety and security agency.  

AESA issued a report saying we were entitled to compensation of 600 euros per person. Iberia sent me an email agreeing to pay the compensation and requested my bank information. 

That’s the last I heard from Iberia. I’ve sent numerous emails since then, but have received no response. I’ve appealed to the customer-care manager and the CEO — nothing. It’s been nine months. Can you help me? — Eileen Hopkins, Dorset, Vermont

A: Iberia should have paid you long ago. It promised in writing to pay you. So what’s the holdup?

EC 261, that’s what. EC 261, deeply unpopular with airlines, is a European consumer regulation that requires carriers such as Iberia to compensate you when it delays a flight. Airlines hate the rule because it costs them real money. But passengers like you like the rule because it holds airlines accountable for their schedules.


I’m on your side. I think airlines should be required to keep their schedules instead of writing contracts that allow them to operate a flight whenever they feel like it. Oh, if we only had a rule like EC 261 in the United States! But I digress.

You might have gotten a faster response by using a service like AirHelp, which processes EC 261 cases for a fee. These companies often have shortcuts for getting a refund, and while it’s no guarantee that they’ll retrieve your compensation (minus their fee), it’s definitely worth considering.

It looks as if you did your absolute best to resolve this. You contacted Spanish aviation regulators, you got Iberia’s promise in writing, and then you contacted the Iberia executives listed on my consumer advocacy site.

Nine-month delays in paying EC 261 claims are not that unusual. The regulation doesn’t hold airlines accountable for a prompt payment of claims, so they can legally drag their feet for months — and frequently do.

I contacted Iberia on your behalf. The airline apologized for the delay and said it couldn’t pay your claim until it received copies of your passports. You sent the airline copies of your passport, which was the third time you had done so. Iberia finally paid your claim.