European passenger rights - all you need to know
How to deal with flight delay, cancellations or denials of boarding? Read our brief guide to passenger rights in EU and learn how to survive in the tough world of air travel!
Airlines, both low-cost and traditional one, are big organizations but guess what – they are bound by law to follow the rules. These rules ar common for EU and apply to:
- air travel within EU
- air travel from EU
- air travel to EU provided the carrier is registered either in EU or Iceland, Norway or Switzerland.
Frequent problems – overbooked flight, cancellation, denied boarding
You arrived at the airport only to learn that the carrier has sold more seats than there are places on the plane? Your flight was cancelled or you were denied boarding for other reason despite holding a valid ticket and having arrived on time? The carrier should:
- provide ticket refund and get to your airport of departure without additional costs. The last mentioned applies of course only to air travel with more than one segment bought as a one trip.
- provide alternative transport to the destination. The means of transport is described as comparable which leaves some room for interpretation.
Other than that, the airline is obliged to inform you as to the reasons of any of the above-mentioned.
Even more frequent problem – long delay of flight
While cancellation is a spooky scenario and most of us are more likely to face delays. If the delay exceeds 5 hours, you have right to refund. Bear in mind that after accepting the refund, you can no longer make any claim to the carrier.
Again, the airline should inform you about the reason your flight is delayed. It applies to delays over 2 hours and in case of flights over distances more that 3500 km, it applies to delays over 4 hours.
Forms of compensation
Depending on the length of your flight and the delay the airline is obliged to provide you care and assistance.
|up to 1500 km||> 2 hrs|
|1500–3500 km||> 3 hrs|
|> 3500 km or outside the EU||> 4 hrs|
Care and assistance mean refreshments, food, phone call and accommodation if applicable.
If the delay exceeds 5 hrs, you can claim refund and have right to get back to your airport of departure. Other than that, airlines can be held responsible for the damages that result from the delay.
b) Financial Compensation
In case of denied boarding, cancellation or when you arrive over 3 hours late, you are entitled to financial compensation. Again, the detail depend on the distance.
|EU||up to 1500 km||€250|
|EU||> 1500 km||€400|
|EU – non-EU||up to 1500 km||€250|
|EU – non-EU||1500–3000||€400|
|EU – non-EU||> 3500 km||€600|
- It's the distance between the airport where you were e.g. denied boarding NOT where you set out on your journey that applies!
- In case you're offered an alternative flight and the schedule is comparable to the original one, reduce the rates above with 50%.
c) When you're NOT entitled to financial compensation
If these are circumstances beyond the carrier's control such as bad weather that caused cancellation, you are NOT entitled to compensation. The same applies if:
- the passenger was informed about the cancellation 2 weeks prior to the scheduled flight.
- an alternative was offered which was similar to the original schedule
Important! Still, the airline must provide assistance and provide:
- full refund or
- other means of transport or
d) How to get compensation
Finally, a piece of advice if you want to claim refund. First of all, download this air passenger rights EU complaint form and make sure the carrier receives it. If you're not satisfied with how your complaint was handled, you'll have to turn to the national enforcement body in the country where e.g. you were subject to denied boarding.
Slawomir Budziak, Oct 30, 2012
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