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EU Airline Passenger Rights

Find out more about the legal regulations for your claim for compensation!

EU Airline Passenger Rights

EU Regulation 261/2004 of the European Parliament and European Council is a joint regulation which addresses compensatory and support obligations with respect to airline passengers in the event of denial of boarding or of cancelation or of a major delay of flights, insofar as airlines do not meet their flight schedules more precisely. The system of payments stipulated in the regulation grants airline passengers compensation in the event of denial of boarding (rebooking), delays or flight cancelations.

Passenger rights in detail

The Passenger Rights Regulation includes the following topics:

  • The compensation paid to you in the event of denied boarding against your will, cancellation or delay of the flight
  • The amount of the compensation payment
  • The services provided by the airline
  • The right to cancel or rebook the flight in case of delay or cancellation
  • The information obligation of the airlines (about cancellations and your passenger rights)
  • The special treatment of persons with reduced mobility and their accompanying persons

The right to compensation is regulated as follows

All passengers who have a confirmed booking and a paid ticket by their name and who depart from or land on an EU airport (if the airline's head office is located in the EU) are entitled to compensation for flight delay, flight cancellation or denied boarding. This also applies to package, service or budget travel, children traveling alone, passengers with discounted tickets (discount due to loyalty programs) and group travelers.

Arrival and Departure EU Airline Non-EU Airline
1. Departure airport outside the EU and arrival airport outside the EU No No
2. Departure airport outside the EU and arrival airport inside the EU Yes No
3. Departure airport inside the EU and arrival airport outside the EU Yes Yes
4. Departure airport inside the EU and arrival airport inside the EU Yes Yes

Claim elimination

However, you are not entitled to compensation if:

  • You fly at a reduced fare or free of charge (unless this fare is directly or indirectly available to the public)
  • You arrive late at the check-in counter, not at least 45 minutes before your departure time
  • You gave the airline staff a reason not to carry you (because of your health or behavior, you would pose a health or operational risk to other passengers or to general flight operations)

Compensation for flight delay

Fundamentally, if your flight is delayed by 3 hours or longer, you have a right to compensation amounting to 250, 400 or 600 euro: up to 1500 km, 250 euro; from 1500 km to 3500 km, 400 euro; above 3500 km, 600 euro. Legal regulations are somewhat complicated, especially with respect to cancelations and flights with intermediate stops. Hence, we recommend using our EuroFlyRefund compensation calculator to see how much you are entitled to.
It is important that the flight in question was no longer than 3 years ago, and that the airline was responsible for the delay, cancelation or denial of boarding. If you are in any doubt, enter your flight details on EuroFlyRefund and have us check your situation for free.
Tip: Often, vouchers you are offered for meals and drinks are not a substitute for compensation payments. Never forego your compensation rights in exchange for vouchers of much smaller value.

In recent years, airlines have become very inventive when it comes to wiggling out of customer claims. We founded EuroFlyRefund in order to help airline passengers assert their claims quickly and, above all, with zero risk of incurring legal costs. We collect your compensation from the airlines because we know their tricks and evasions, and above all the applicable law to the tiniest detail, and our lawyers have already brought suit successfully against airlines on many occasions. Tip: When it comes to business travel, as a rule it is the employee who has a right to compensation and not the employer who paid for the flight. Furthermore, such compensation is tax free in many countries (to be absolutely certain, please contact your tax consultant)!

Your rights to compensation in the event of flight cancelation or overbooking

If your flight was canceled less than 2 weeks prior to your scheduled departure date, or if the flight was overbooked and you were denied boarding, as an airline passenger you are entitled to compensation of as much as 600 euro. However, it is vital that you had arrived punctually at the check-in counter.

Additional services provided by airlines in the event of delays or cancelations

The following services must be provided by airlines without reducing the amount of compensation (up to 600 euro) to which the passenger is eligible:

Waiting period Route Entitlement
2-hour wait or longer total flight distance of under 1500 km Reimbursement for necessities such as meals, drinks, telephone calls and emails
3-hour wait or longer a total flight distance of 1500 to 3500 km Reimbursement for necessities such as meals, drinks, telephone calls and emails
4-hour wait or longer a total flight distance of over 3500 km Reimbursement for necessities such as meals, drinks, telephone calls and emails
5-hour wait or longer All flights Rescission of the transportation agreement and full reimbursement of the ticket price
Flight only on the next day All flights Overnight hotel accommodation including transfer

Airline disclosure requirement with respect to passengers

In the event of a flight delay or cancelation, the airlines are required to provide passengers with written notification in the check-in area as well as on their website about their rights as passengers.

Exceptional circumstances and other exceptions to compensation payments

EU Regulation 261/2004 also stipulates that airlines are not required to pay compensation for delays or cancelations if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances, upon which the airline had no influence, “even though the air carrier in question had taken all reasonable measures in order to prevent the delays or cancelations”. Such extraordinary circumstances include weather conditions which made it impossible to provide the flight, political instability, security risks, strike action at the airport or unexpected safety shortcomings affecting the aircraft itself. It is precisely these extraordinary circumstances which are frequently used by airlines as a way of evading justified compensation claims. For an airline passenger, however, it is often very difficult to prove the contrary, which makes it necessary to rely upon EuroFlyRefund’s experience and access to extensive databases of weather- and strike data in order to successfully assert your claim.
Practice has shown that the formulation of this section of the law is not infrequently subject to interpretation, often resulting in a complaint brought against the airline having to go through the court system until a final judgment is rendered. No matter what the situation, EuroFlyRefund will assume the full risk of related court costs, giving customers peace of mind as they wait to receive the compensation they are due, or, in the event that the verdict comes down in favor of the airline, knowing that we at EuroFlyRefund will bear all legal costs – in other words, as the airline passenger affected, you are in a win-win situation!

The European Court of Justice confirmed this in a recent judgment (17.09.2015, Az. C-257/14): Technical problems which affect an aircraft, despite regular maintenance, are fundamentally not extraordinary circumstances. Consequently, they do not release the airline from the requirement to pay compensation (between 250 and 600 euro) to the passenger in the event of flight cancelation. This verdict yet again confirmed current case law established by both the European Court of Justice and the German Supreme Court.

How airlines try to evade compensation payment

As already mentioned, the legal texts often leave room for different interpretations. Of course, airlines are trying to use this in their favor to avoid paying passengers compensation. Low-value vouchers for airline miles or vouchers for the next flights with the airline are the most frequently offered tricks. However, these never correspond to the amount of the actual compensation of up to € 600 due to you. Therefore, never accept such vouchers and do not sign a waiver, but check your individual situation online.