APF (Die agentur fur passagier- und fahrgastrechte) is an agency for passenger rights in Austria. According to APF’s own description, it is an organization that “helps passengers obtain justice free of charge without going to court”. It deals with bus, rail, ship and air transport disputes. If your point of departure is Austria, it is the first organization you should contact if you are unable to solve your EC261 compensation claim directly with your airline.
After my first experience with Apf Austria, I can’t help but feel that existence of this organization is just waste of taxpayer’s money.
My case against Ryanair
On 15th of October 2020 I was supposed to fly with Ryanair from Vienna to Rhodes. Due to the air traffic control strike in Greece, all the flights to the country on 15/10 were canceled. My Ryanair flight was rescheduled exactly 24 hours later for 16th of October.
During the pandemic, every person arriving to Greece have to fill an online Passenger Location Form (PLF). In normal circumstances it is only valid for the day indicated on the PLF. Due to the strike, Greece announced that forms issued for 15th of October will be also valid for arrivals on October 16th.
However at Vienna airport my PLF with date 15/10 was not accepted by Ryanair’s ground staff and I was denied boarding. At same time, at nearby gate there was boarding for a Wizzair flight to Rhodes. Passengers of this flight with PLF issued for 15/10 were allowed to board. Austrian airlines were also accepting passengers to Rhodes with PLF issued for 15/10. Ryanair’s staff didn’t receive any notification from their headquarters about validity of the old PLFs and there was no way they would let me board the plane.
Only after boarding gate was closed (at approximately 6:30 am) they received an email from Ryanair headquarters informing that passengers with PLFs issued for 15/10 were OK to fly.
But at that time the plane was already leaving the gate. As Ryanair accepted it was their mistake, they offered me free rebooking. I asked to be rebooked on different airline but they refused to do that. As Ryanair didn’t have other flights to Rhodes that day, I decided to take their flight to Heraklion on Crete which was leaving 7 hours later. The time before the flight to Heraklion I spent in Sky lounge where I have free access with my Priority Pass card. After arriving to Heraklion I purchased another ticket on Aegean Airlines to Rhodes.
Claim for denied boarding with Ryanair
In this case it was clear that it was Ryanair’s fault that I wasn’t allowed on my flight. The Vienna ground staff also admitted their mistake. If it wasn’t their mistake, I would have never been offered free rebooking. If my PLF wasn’t valid, I wouldn’t be allowed to enter Greece by local authorities in Heraklion either.
According to EC261, if you have all required documents and you are denied boarding, you can claim monetary compensation. As my flight was longer that 1500 kilometers, I was entitled to 400 euro. I also claimed compensation for the ticket from Heraklion to Rhodes. I did the claim directly on the Ryanair web page.
As I didn’t receive any reply concerning my case, after one month I sent Ryanair another email. However until now I havn’t received any reply concerning from them. For this reason I decided to contact APF Austria.
Disappointing results from APF Austria
Reason for establishment of national agencies for passengers rights in EU is to help citizens dealing with uncooperative airlines. It seems that in my case APF Austria only formally contacted the airline and never really tried to resolve my case.
On Apf web page there’s form you can fill if you are unable to resolve your problem directly with an airline. I submitted all the required documents for my case and was quickly contacted by one of their agents. But after that, my case was handled very disappointingly.
It took about two months until they received a reply from Ryanair. Ryanair just claimed that I didn’t have PLF with correct date and APF immediately closed my case (I informed them about the validity of 15/10 PLF’s when submitting my file). They never bother to verify with anyone if Ryanair claim was correct. They never gave me any chance to prove that Ryanair is lying. They just simply closed the case.
Quote from APF email that I received: successful arbitration requires both parties to be accommodating. It is unfortunately impossible to reach a mutually acceptable solution if either of the parties is unwilling to compromise.
So in this case Ryanair was not willing to pay compensation I was entitled to and that was enough for APF to dismiss my claim. Why does EU create this agencies if they don’t have any power or will to protect consumers?
I was notified by APF that even though my case was closed, I can still go to the court. I havnt decided yet how I will continue my fight with Ryanair. I am just sure I will not give up after APF’s poor dealing with my case.