Flight delay compensation under EU law
The rights of air passengers are specified in the Air Passenger Rights Regulation of the European Union. EU regulation (EC) 261/2004 states the services which must be provided by airlines to passengers in the event of a flight delay. In addition to services such as complimentary meals, beverages as well as accommodation, under certain conditions passengers may receive a compensation payment from the airline.
When is the EU regulation applicable?
The Air Passenger Rights Regulation is applicable to all flights departing in the EU, regardless of where the responsible airline has its headquarters. In addition, it applies to all arriving flights in the EU from third countries, provided that the airline is based in the European Union.
Payment of compensation in case of delay - when and how much?
Passengers are entitled to compensation if the airline is responsible for the delay. This is most often the case when a technical defect occurs. The length of the delay is an important factor when determining a claim to compensation. According to the current regulation, delays of more than three hours are assimilated to a cancellation and entitle affected passengers to compensation. In order to be eligible for compensation, passengers must be at the airport to check-in by the scheduled time (usually 45 minutes before the departure time).
What is the compensation claim for flight delay?
If the airline is responsible, the passengers concerned have a right to compensation of up to £500. The amount of the payment depends on the distance of the flight. Delays of over three hours for routes greater than 3500 kilometers are entitled to compensation of £500. For delayed flights in the range of 1500 to 3500 kilometers, £330 will be payable by the airline. If the length of the flight is less than 1500 kilometers, the relevant amount is £210.
When the airline is not responsible?
According to the Air Passenger Rights Regulation, if the cause of the delay is beyond the control of the airline, there is no obligation for the airline to pay any amount of compensation. This is especially true in so-called “exceptional circumstances”. These typically include strikes, bad weather, and closures of an airport or airspace, such as in the case of the ash cloud incident of 2010.
A claim for payment of compensation can, however, also exist in weather-related delays if the airline was not adequately prepared for the weather event. Delay caused, for example, by the airline failing to liberally use de-icing chemicals may result in passengers being entitled to compensation. This is particularly true when the aircrafts of other airlines were able to start on schedule.
What are the rights of passengers in addition to the compensation payments?
Besides the right to the payment of compensation, during long delays passengers are always entitled to benefits, regardless of whether the airline is responsible for the delayed departure or not. These benefits include food, beverages, means of communication, and hotel accommodation if necessary. These services should be offered after a delay time of two hours for routes up to 1500 kilometers.
When a flight delay exceeds five hours, passengers may choose to withdraw from the flight. In this case, the airline is obliged to refund the cost of the ticket. Alternatively, the airline should provide substitute transport to the intended destination or the starting point of the journey.