It’s one of the worst nightmares for any traveller. You’re about to leave for a crucial business trip or to finally have a relaxing beach break, but through no fault of your own, the flight is cancelled. It turns out that your airline made a mistake and overbooked, and it’s you who needs to wait for another flight.
Sometimes, innocent travellers would be left out of pocket, flightless and desperately disappointed.
The EU Flight Compensation Law (also known as (EC) 261/2004) has changed all of that. For the first time, air travellers in Europe have a set of entitlements that they can enforce against airlines. These include refunds, benefits like overnight lodging as well as financial compensation. Every airline user should know about them, even the best budget airlines.
What flights does the EU Compensation Law apply to?
This law applies for all flights departing from the EU, within the EU or entering the EU via an EU carrier. It also includes flights arriving from Switzerland, Norway or Iceland, so it will cover you for your Scandinavian winter holiday.
What happens if my flight is overbooked or cancelled?
Firstly, if your flight is overbooked or cancelled, the airline must organize an alternative route or issue a full refund. If you have taken a connecting flight, the airline also must return you without any charge to your initial departure point.
What happens if my flight is severely delayed?
Delays of 5 hours or more also require a full refund, and travellers are also entitled to information as to the reasons why their flight has been delayed.
Can I claim financial compensation if my flight is delayed, cancelled or overbooked?
Yes you can. If passengers are denied boarding, if their flight arrives more than three hours behind schedule, or if the flight is cancelled, it is possible to claim between EUR 250 and 600.
The amount you can claim is related to the length of the flight. Within the EU, if the flight is over 1,500km you can claim EUR 400. For flights under 1,500km you can claim EUR 250. For flights between EU and non-EU airports, you can claim EUR 600 if the distance is over 3,500km.
These amounts are also dependent upon your airline failing to offer an alternative route. If an alternative is offered, compensation can be halved.
What other services should airlines provide in the event of a cancellation?
Under the Law, airlines are also obliged to provide overnight lodging, food and transport to and from the airport. This may not be provided as a matter of course, but it is your right. Keep hotel and taxi receipts if required.
Can I be denied compensation even though my flight has been cancelled?
If the reasons for cancellation are beyond the control of your airline, you will receive no compensation. The same applies if the airline informs you more than 2 weeks in advance of your flight or if they provide a suitable alternative route.
Even if the airline could not avoid the cancellation, they must still offer you a refund, try to arrange a different route or provide you with an alternative seat on the date of your choice, if available. Don’t let it ruin your European holiday!
How do I claim compensation under the EU Law?
Special forms are used to make claims under the Compensation Law. However, these can be confusing to the ordinary traveller who is not aware of their rights. Flightright can handle all compensation claims against EU airlines on a success-fee basis, and make the process simple.
The EU Flight Compensation Law is the traveller’s best friend – although surprisingly few people know about it. If you have a flight cancelled or delayed, it may be due compensation, so make sure that you know your rights.
Hoda Daniels is a frequent traveller from Europe. She is based in Berlin, Germany and she loves sharing her trip experiences.