EU Passenger Rights: Delayed or Cancelled Flights

EU Passenger Rights: Delayed or Cancelled Flights

Strikes, staff shortages and an excess of travellers after the COVID-19 pandemic are just some of the reasons behind the chaos in many European airports during the summer holidays.

As people are travelling again, visiting friends and family and taking the holidays that were postponed several times, they have had to face long queues, delays, and even flight cancellations. Reportedly, this will continue for the next few months.

Fortunately, the European Union has strict regulations protecting consumer rights, including buying plane tickets.

If you have faced issues with your flight, here are your rights and how to get compensation, according to EU legislation.

Trips Covered by the EU Legislation

EU air passenger rights apply if the flight is within the EU or Schengen zone, if it arrives in the EU/Schengen zone from outside the bloc and is operated by an EU-based airline, or if the flight departs from the EU/ Schengen zone.

Additionally, the EU rights apply only if you have not already received benefits including compensation, re-routing, and assistance from the airline for the journey under the law of a non-EU country.

That compensation varies depending on the situation but can include food, hotel accommodation (in the event of an overnight delay) and even transportation between the airport and hotel.

After Brexit, the bloc’s rules and rights do not apply to cancellations or delays to flights from the UK to the EU or to those passengers denied boarding on these flights if the flight was operated by a non-EU carrier.

However, according to the rules, if the flight arrives in the European Union and is operated by an EU airline, or if you are flying to the UK from an EU country, then you are entitled to the same rights.

Flight Cancellation

In case of cancellation regardless of any reason, passengers have the right to choose between getting the money back, getting the next available flight, or changing the booking completely for a later date. 

Passengers are also entitled to assistance free of charge, including refreshments, food, accommodation (if the flight was rebooked to travel the next day), transport, and communication. 

If the passenger was informed of the cancellation less than 14 days before the scheduled departure date, the passenger also has a right to compensation, except if the cancellation was due to “extraordinary circumstances”.

Delayed Flight 

Passenger rights and compensation will depend on the duration of the delay and the distance of the flight.

If an airline expects that the flight will be delayed beyond the scheduled departure time, you are entitled to meals and refreshments in proportion to the waiting time. It starts at two hours for shorter flights (distance of 1,500 km or less), three hours or more for longer flights and a delay of four hours for all other flights.

You should make yourself known to the airline so that they can provide you with the necessary vouchers and information.

If the flight arrived at the final destination with a delay of more than three hours, passengers are entitled to compensation unless the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances.

The compensation will be €250 for short flights, €400 for longer flights and up to €600 for flights covering more than 3,500 kilometres.

Denied To Board Flight

Passengers who were denied boarding because their flight was overbooked have the right to choose between reimbursement, going on the next flight or rebooking the journey at a later date. Passengers are also entitled to compensation and assistance from the airline.

In the event that the passengers are downgraded, they are entitled to reimbursement of a percentage of the ticket price, depending on flight distance, and reaching 75 per cent.

What are Extraordinary Circumstances

According to the EU, events defined as extraordinary circumstances are “air traffic management decisions, political instability, adverse weather conditions and security risks”.

However, most technical problems which come to light during maintenance are not considered extraordinary circumstances, and staff shortages would also usually not be classed as extraordinary circumstances. However, with the widespread shortages around Europe, it is still unclear if this can be considered an extraordinary circumstance.

Airlines need to prove that the circumstance caused the delay or cancellation and that delays or cancellations couldn’t have been avoided “even if all reasonable measures had been taken”.

How To Get the Compensation

The passenger's first point of contact should be the airline itself. However, if they are not satisfied with the response, they can contact the country’s European Consumer Centre for cross-border flights or a national consumer centre for domestic trips.

If you think you’re liable for compensation from your airline, you can file an official EU airline complaint form.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Talk to us in the comment section below.

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