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Air passenger rights

Many air passengers don’t know that their rights are protected by EU air passenger rights regulation formally known as Regulation (EC) No 261/2004. Those who know that they are protected still question their rights. Ifdelayed will help you understand air travel passenger rights and assist you in claiming compensation.

 

What is EU Regulation EC 261?

Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 is an EU law designed to protect air passenger rights. Under this law, airlines are liable when flights are disrupted due to circumstances that were under their control.

EU

Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 plays an important role in protecting air passenger rights of EU citizens and foreigners, regardless of country of origin. All passengers departing from European airports are covered by this law. In addition, passengers arriving at European airports from destinations around the world may be covered as well, provided that the carrier is an EU-based airline.

 

Flight compensation under EC 261

Air travellers often don’t know that, in many cases, airlines are legally responsible for flight disruptions. It’s worth knowing your air passenger rights because each passenger can receive up to €600 in flight compensation. However, there is no need to know all the details and legal jargon as Ifdelayed along with its staff and legal experts can help you with the claiming process.

Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 covers flight disruptions listed below.

The compensation amount you may receive depends on many factors such as the flight distance and the amount of time you were delayed before arriving at your destination airport.

 

For which flights can I get compensation under EC 261?

Nearly all flights inside Europe are eligible for compensation. Therefore, they include flights not only from EU member states but also Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the distant regions, such as French Guiana and Martinique, Guadeloupe and La Réunion, Saint-Martin, Madeira, the Azores, and the Canary Islands.

Your flight must begin in the EU or arrive at an EU airport. However, when a flight departs from a non-EU country — the carrier must be an EU-based airline.

Disrupted flights outside the EU may be covered by Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 if they connect to a covered flight. Such flights must be with the same carrier and made in one reservation (they have the same booking reference number). The quickest way to find out if you’re eligible for flight compensation is to use Ifdelayed’s eligibility check.

 

Flight compensation under extraordinary circumstances

Under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, airlines don’t have to pay compensation if the reason for the disruption were extraordinary circumstances, which are events outside of airlines’ control. Examples of these circumstances are airport employee or air traffic control strikes, political unrest, severe weather conditions, security risks, and so on.

Nevertheless, airlines must be ready to prevent delays even in these non-refundable cases. If other airlines were prepared for extraordinary circumstances and managed to prevent delays, but yours didn’t, you should still be entitled to compensation.

In 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled that airline staff strikes are not considered an extraordinary circumstance. Therefore, passengers that were affected by airline staff strikes are able to seek out disrupted flight compensation. Our legal experts keep up to date with court decisions to estimate possible outcomes of cases before taking them to court.

 

What are my air travel passenger rights?

Air passenger rights include legislation that defends air passengers and guarantees compensation when they experience flight delays, cancellations or are denied boarding. EU’s air passenger rights are defined by Regulation (EC) No 261/2004. Under this law, passengers are entitled to compensation in a range of situations.

EU air passenger rights

However, despite the legal basis, many people are not aware of the law or don’t know that this law is there to protect their rights. In fact, nearly 85% of EU air passengers don’t know their air travel passenger rights. In addition to the laws of individual countries, there are also regional laws, such as Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, various US laws, and the Montreal Convention, which protects air travel passenger rights worldwide.

 

Air travel passenger rights under EC 261

Apart from monetary compensation, airlines are obligated to take care of their passengers under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004.

 

Obligation to provide information about air passenger rights

Airlines are obligated to inform air passengers about the contents of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 by displaying information on passengers’ rights at their check-in counters in every airport where they operate.

 

Reimbursement or re-routing

If your flight delay is more than 5 hours, you are entitled to a full or partial refund of your flight ticket in addition to compensation and a return flight to your departure airport if you need that.

 

Right to care

Regardless of the reasons for your flight delay, under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, airlines must provide you with food and beverages if you have to wait for your flight for more than 2 hours depending on the flight distance. Furthermore, the carrier must provide you with access to the internet, telephone calls, and fax. If the delay is overnight, airlines must provide you with hotel accommodation and transportation from and to the airport. Additional care depends on your flight details.

 

Flight details Length of delay
Flights 1,500 km or less 2 hours or more
Internal EU flights more than 1,500 km 3 hours or more
Non-internal EU flights 1,500 km – 3,500 km 3 hours or more
Non-internal EU flights more than 3,500 km 4 hours or more

 

Upgrading and downgrading

If you get a higher class seat on your alternative flight, you don’t have to pay additionally. However, if the alternative flight seat offered by the airline is the lower class, you may get a 30 – 75%  reimbursement of the price you paid for the ticket.

 

Flight delay compensation time limit

Under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, your right to claim compensation will eventually expire. The time limit varies in different countries as it is subject to local law.

The country in which you claim is not determined by your nationality but depends on where the headquarters of the airline is, or what court has jurisdiction in cases concerning the airline.

Time limits for claiming compensation in individual countries.

 

Country Time limit
Austria 3 years
Belgium 1 year
Bulgaria 5 years
Croatia 3 years
Cyprus 6 years
Czech Republic 3 years
Denmark 3 years
Estonia 3 years
Finland 3 years
France 5 years
Germany* 3 years
Greece 5 years
Hungary 5 years
Iceland 2 years
Ireland 6 years
Italy 26 months
Latvia 10 years
Lithuania 10 years
Luxembourg 10 years
Malta No limit
Netherlands 2 years
Norway 3 years
Poland 1 year
Portugal 3 years
Romania 3 years
Slovakia 2 years
Slovenia 2 years
Spain 5 years
Sweden** 2 months
Switzerland 2 years
United Kingdom 6 years

 

*In Germany the limitation period expires the last day of the third year (for example, the disrupted flight was on 22/3/2018, the limitation period for this flight expires on 31/12/2021).

**In Sweden the limitation period is renewed at any time when a claim is made. So the limitation period for any subsequent claims would be 3 years from the time the last claim was filed.

 

What is the Montreal Convention?

The Montreal Convention is a multilateral contract that has been ratified by over 130 countries worldwide. It aims to define airline liability in case of a flight delay and for damage or loss of baggage. However, this convention is not as comprehensive on flight disruption as EU Regulation (EC) No 261/2004.

Air passengers

 

What air passenger rights are covered by the Montreal Convention?

The Montreal Convention defines passenger rights for several types of flight disruptions that include flight delays, cancelled flights, and denied boarding.

If a passenger misses a pre-paid reservation and has additional expenses due to this disruption, these expenses may be covered by the airline. It’s necessary to provide documentation of the incident and proof of additional expenses i.e. receipts. Only expenses resulting from the disruption are refunded. The Montreal Convention also protects in cases, such as damaged bags, delayed bags or lost luggage.

The Montreal Convention outlines strict time limits so you must file your claim as soon as possible – within 7 days for damaged baggage claims, 21 days for delayed baggage. There’s a 2-year time limit to file a claim for lost baggage, which is lost for more than 21 days. 

 

Which flights are covered by the Montreal Convention?

The Montreal Convention applies to international flights between countries that have ratified it. It was signed and is recognised by more than 130 countries worldwide.

The Montreal Convention also applies if your departure and arrival destinations were within a single member country, but only if there is a planned stopover in a different country, which makes the flight international – not domestic.

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