EU Passenger Rights Regulation

The rights of air passengers and the obligations of airlines are stipulated in EU regulation 261/2004. The European Parliament and the European Council have defined cases in which airlines are obliged to pay compensation or provide services to passengers.

If you’re at the airport now and are currently experiencing a flight delay or flight cancellation, or if you were denied boarding due to overbooking, here are the steps you need to take. Continue reading…

For which flights does EU 261/2004 apply?

European passenger rights are applicable to all flights that begin inside the EU, as well as flights than land in the EU provided the operating airline is a EU-based carrier. The regulation applies to scheduled, charter and low-cost flights. EU 261/2004 is also subject to restrictions in Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

EU 261/2004 applies:

  • If your flight started in the EU or your flight landed in the EU and the operating airline is EU-based
  • Regardless of whether your flight was a scheduled, charter or low-cost flight or part of a package holiday deal

EU 261/2004 does not apply:

  • If you were late to check-in, as this is your responsibility and not the airlines. So make sure you do so at least 45 minutes before your departure
  • If you are using a tariff which is not available to the public directly

In Germany, compensation claims can be submitted up to three years after the originally planned departure date (more information). You can check your claim with our compensation claim calculator. Continue reading…

What are the exceptions to the regulation?

Passengers are entitled to compensation whenever time irregularities are caused by circumstances that are the responsibility of the airline. If, on the other hand, there are so-called “extraordinary circumstances” outside of the airline’s control, the obligations of the airline are restricted. Such circumstances include extreme weather conditions, ash clouds and strikes.

The definition of exceptional circumstances in EU Regulation 261/2004 is, however, generalized, and leaves room for interpretation. For example, in a landmark judgement in 2015, The European Court of Justice determined that avoidable technical problems cannot be defined as extraordinary circumstances (AZ C-257/14). What is ultimately considered an extraordinary circumstance is dependent on the jurisprudence of the respective country.

Airlines always refer to such circumstances in order to shirk responsibility and avoid paying compensation, even if this is not permissible. It is often difficult for passengers affected to prove the opposite. Refund.me represents you against the airline and fights for your passenger rights, often taking airlines to court if necessary. Find out more about extraordinary circumstances and the current case law.

Examples of extraordinary circumstances

  • Severe weather
  • Strikes
  • Radar failure

The airline must provide the following under EU Regulation 261/2004

Replacement services

This is either a full refund of the ticket price or replacement transport to your final destination. This applies specifically to passengers who have been denied boarding or whose flight has been cancelled. However, if a flight is delayed for over 5 hours, passengers can also choose to abandon the travel completely and claim compensation.

Utilities (care services)

If you have to wait for a delayed flight, the airline is obliged to provide you with what is necessary. This includes drinks and snacks as well as an overnight stay in a hotel if necessary, including airport transfers.

Compensation payments

In the case of denied boarding, a delay of over 3 hours or a cancelled flight, you may be entitled to a compensation payment of up to 600 euros. The amount of compensation depends on the flight distance and the duration of the delay.

Not infrequently, substitute payments and compensation payments are applicable at the same time. For example, if there is a missed connection as a result of a long delay, compensation must be paid in addition to organised replacement transport.

Airlines are obliged to inform you of your complete rights in writing. You can request appropriate information at the ticket office or at the departure gate. Continue reading…

What are the cases covered by EU Passenger Rights Regulation?

In principle, there are 3 different cases covered by the Passenger Rights Regulation:

RFM-_issues-08-150×150Flight delays

RFM-_issues-06-150×150Flight cancellations

RFM-_issues-07-150×150Overbookings

Although the EU Passenger Rights Regulation differentiates these three cases, certain provisions apply regardless of whether your journey is affected by a flight delay, a flight cancellation or an overbooking.

Services

When are there benefits?

Utilities (also called care services) are always due when passengers are forced to wait an unreasonable amount of time. Even in the case of extraordinary circumstances, airlines must provide you with appropriate services. An “inappropriate delay” is defined in the following table:

Inside the EU

Flight distances up to 1500km:
A delay of over 2 hours

Flight distances over 1500km:
A delay of over 3 hours

Outside the EU

Flight distances up to 1500km:
A delay of over 2 hours

Flight distances between 1500km-3500km:
A delay of over 3 hours

Flight distances over 3500km:
A delay of over 4 hours

What are the care services?

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    Food and drink

    Passengers are entitled to food and drink in proportion to the waiting period.

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    Telephone & Internet

    You are entitled to up to two phone calls, e-mails or faxes at the expense of the airline.

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    Accommodation and transport

    If the waiting time requires an overnight stay, the airline must pay for your hotel. It must also pay for the transfers to and from the airport.

Your passenger rights in the case of a flight delay

Care services for flight delays

For flight delays, the same universal conditions apply for care services as for flight cancellations and overbookings. See section on care services for more information.

Compensation for flight delays

EU Regulation 261/2004 did not initially stipulate compensation for flight delays. However, according to a landmark judge of the EUGH in 2009, it is now clear that passengers are entitled to compensation even in the case of flight delays provided they reach their destination with a delay of more than three hours. Therefore, it is the arrival delay that determines the eligibility for compensation and not the departure delay. The compensation amount is calculated according to the length of the journey and the delay time:

Flight distance up to 1500km

0-3 hour delay: 0 euros

3+ hour delays: 250 euros

Flight distance between 1500km and 3500km

0-3 hour delay: 0 euros

3+ hour delay: 400 euros

Flight distance more than 3500km (within the EU)

0-3 hour delay: 0 euros

3+ hour delay: 400 euros

Flight distances more than 3500km (outside the EU)

0-3 hour delay: 0 euros

3-4 hour delay: 300 euros

4+ hour delay: 600 euros

This amount is for each individual passenger. For example, if you flew with your family, you can claim the amount for each family member travelling with you. Continue reading…

A prerequisite for a compensation claim is that you arrived at the departure gate on time. The minimum time is generally stated by the airline. However, if this is not mentioned anywhere, make sure you arrive at least 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time to be safe.

Replacements for flight delays

If a flight delay exceeds five hours, passengers can choose to abandon their travel. The airline is then obliged to refund the entire ticket price. Payment must be made within seven days of the date of departure. The entitlement to compensation is not affected by this refund and therefore is still applicable. You should receive a refund of the ticket price as well as a compensation payment from the airline.

Your rights in the event of a flight cancellation

Care services in the case of a flight failure

In the case of a flight cancellation, passengers have the same entitlements to benefits as in a flight delay, provided they have to wait for substitute transport at the airport. This means that you can already claim after a waiting period of at least 2 hours. Read about your claims for benefits here.

Replacements in the event of a flight cancellation

If you flight is cancelled, you can choose between a full refund of the ticket price or substitute transport organised by the airline. Your right to compensation is not affected by this decision. The airline is obliged to either refund you the full cost of the flight, possibly in conjunction with a return flight to the first place of departure, or to get you to your destination as soon as possible. Your right to a replacement journey is always due regardless of whether the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances.

A replacement/substitute journey does not necessarily have to be a flight. If practical, it may also be provided as a bus, train or even a rental car. You may also choose to book a flight to / from a nearby airport to your original destination. If this is done, the airline must also pay the costs of transport to the originally planned airport.

Alternatively, you have the right to abandon travel. In this case, you will be reimbursed the cost of the ticket price. In either case, you may also be entitled to cash compensation under EU 261/2004.

Compensation for a flight cancellation

Whether you are entitled to compensation in the event of a flight cancellation in addition to replacement services depends on when you were informed of the flight schedule change and under what conditions a possible replacement was offered.

Under these conditions, the compensation payment is not required

The compensation payment is generally waived if you have been informed of the cancelation more than 14 days before the scheduled departure.

The compensation payment is also omitted if:

  • You were informed of the cancellation 7 to 14 days before the planned departure and your substitute flight does not start more than 2 hours later and will not land more than 4 hours later than the original planned flight
  • You were informed of the failure less than 7 days before the planned departure and your substitute flight does not start more than 1 hour later and will not land more than 2 hours later than the original planned flight

Amount of compensation in the event of a flight cancellation

If none of the aforementioned exclusion criteria apply, the compensation is decided based on the flight distance. The compensation payment may be reduced by the airline by up to 50% if it offers a different transport to the destination airport. In this case, the arrival time of the alternative transport must be in a reasonable time relationship with the original scheduled route.

Flight distance up to 1500km

Alternative flight with max. 2 hour delay: 125 euros
Otherwise: 250 euros

Flight distance between 1500km and 3500km

Alternative flight with max 3 hour delay: 200 euros
Otherwise: 400 euros

Flight distance more than 3500km within the EU

Alternative flight with max 4 hour delay: 200 euros
Otherwise: 400 euros

Flight distance more than 3500km outside the EU

Alternative flight with max 4 hour delay: 300 euros
Otherwise: 600 euros

Your passenger rights in case of denied boarding

Passengers denied boarding by an airline is usually the result of overbooking. This practice is common with many airlines, especially low-cost carriers. They often sell more tickets than seats that are on the aircraft, assuming there will be passenger no-shows.

Care services

If you are overbooked, the airline will likely offer to put you on the next available flight that may be at a later date. In this case, the airline is obliged to provide you with all necessary care services for your wait.

Replacements for denied boarding

Should you be affected by being denied boarding against your will you have the right to cancel your flight with a full refund of the ticket price or to insist on alternative travel arrangements, according to the Passenger Rights Regulation. Further claims to cash compensation under EU 261/2004 are not affected by this decision.

Replacement transport must be carried out as promptly as possible. Airlines are required to transport you to your original destination as early as possible. The conditions of transport must be comparable but not necessarily within the same means of transport. For example, the airline can offer you a train ticket if appropriate.

Compensation for denied boarding

If boarding is refused due to overbooking, you will be compensated again depending on the flight distance. The compensation may be reduced by the airline by up to 50% if it offers alternative transport options to your final destination airport. However, the arrival time of the alternative transport must be within the time of the originally scheduled arrival time. The compensation payment for cases of denied boarding is as follows:

Flight distance up to 1500km

Alternative flight with max. 2 hour delay: 125 euros
Otherwise: 250 euros

Flight distance between 1500km and 3500km

Alternative flight with max 3 hour delay: 200 euros
Otherwise: 400 euros

Flight distance more than 3500km within the EU

Alternative flight with max 4 hour delay: 200 euros
Otherwise: 400 euros

Flight distance more than 3500km outside the EU

Alternative flight with max 4 hour delay: 300 euros
Otherwise: 600 euros

A prerequisite for a compensation claim is that you arrived at the departure gate on time. The minimum time is generally stated by the airline. However, if this is not mentioned anywhere, make sure you arrive at least 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time to be safe. Your right is also restricted if there are reasonable reasons for your denial of boarding. These include inadequate travel documents and visa issues.