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Did you miss your connection due to a delay?

For a long time, air passengers received no compensation if they missed a connecting flight because the first leg of their journey was delayed. This has now changed thanks to a ruling from the District Court of Berlin and the German Federal Court of Justice: if the first flight is delayed, and as a result passengers miss their connecting flight, then they are entitled to financial compensation. This judgment is one of many decisions made on the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation since it came into force in 2005.

Missed flight connection due to delayed feeder flight

What am I entitled to if I miss my connection?

  • Compensation of between €250 and €600 per person
  • If you arrive 3 hours late at your final destination
  • This applies even if the connecting flight is operated by another airline, as long as the ticket is valid for both flights
  • Passengers are entitled to snacks and refreshments as soon as their flight is delayed for 2 hours or more
  • Their rights are based on the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation 261/2004
  • Extraordinary circumstances release airlines from any obligation to pay compensation
  • This regulation also applies to package holidays

What should I do if I miss my connection?

  • Get the airline to issue you a written confirmation with reasons for the flight cancellation or delay
  • Collect proof: Photos, receipts documenting any expense incurred, tickets, vouchers
  • Exchange contact details with other passengers
  • Insist on receiving food and refreshments at the airport
  • Use our service to check whether you are eligible for compensation
  • Make the most of our legal expertise: we’ll help you get your money back

The right to compensation when the first flight is delayed

Various court decisions have strengthened consumer rights.The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg and the German Federal Court of Justice (BGH) have both issued consumer-friendly rulings stating: Passengers can also receive compensation for major delays affecting flights consisting of several legs.These compensation payments are based on a scale ranging from €250 to €600. According to the Federal Court of Justice, the right to compensation depends on the delayed arrival at the destination and not a delay affecting one of the legs (case ref. X ZR 127/11).If passengers no longer make their connection and arrive at the destination airport more than three hours late, they are entitled to compensation.

In this specific case, the BGH judges ruled in favour of the plaintiff, who had claimed EUR 600 in compensation for her and her fellow passenger from the Spanish airline Iberia for a trip from Berlin to Costa Rica via Madrid.The first flight from Berlin to Madrid, i.e. the European leg, was delayed by an hour and a half, meaning that the travellers missed their connection to Costa Rica. Boarding was closed when they landed, and as a result, the two passengers were unable to travel until the next day meaning that they we losing a full day of their holiday. Before the BGH made a positive decision in the interests of the consumers, they referred this case to the ECJ.The German court wanted to know whether the European Air Passenger Rights Regulation would also apply in a scenario like this one.The ECJ confirmed this, substantiating the EU consumer legislation.

Connecting flights with different airlines

According to the District Court of Berlin (case ref.54 S 22/13).Passengers are also entitled to compensation if they miss their connection because the first flight was delayed.This applies regardless of whether both flights were operated by the same airline. In the case before the District Court of Berlin, the plaintiff had booked a flight from Berlin to Havana via Frankfurt.The flight to Frankfurt was already delayed by one-and-a-half hours, meaning that the passenger missed his connection to Cuba and couldn’t continue his trip until the next day. As a result, he claimed EUR 600 in compensation against the airline.The airline rejected his claim - as they had only operated the first leg and the delay was only an hour and a half, which is less than the three hours needed to receive compensation. The airline had also referred to the fact that the flight to Havana had been operated by another airline.

The court’s decision was a consumer-friendly one.The deciding factor, it explained, was the fact that the passenger had booked the two flights as part of one booking and was checked in accordingly.This was clear from the fact that only one flight ticket had been issued for both legs, for example.This meant that it was also clear to the airline that the flight it operated was only one of two legs. Airlines have to pay compensation for cancelled flights based on the entire booking and not just for the first flight, i.e. if a first flight is cancelled, the airline has to provide compensation for the connecting flight that is missed.

At what point do I become entitled to compensation?

The question as to whether or not passengers qualify for compensation depends on the delay. For trips consisting of several legs, this refers not to the destination at the point of origin, i.e. the delayed departure, but rather to the delayed arrival at the destination.If passengers arrive at their destination airport more than three hours later than planned, they are entitled to the full amount of compensation.
For flights covering a distance of 1500 km, the compensation comes to €250, a figure that rises to €400 for flights of up to 3500 km and €600 for flights covering a distance of more than 3500 km.

The factors that determine the maximum amount of compensation is not only the distance from the destination of the cancelled first flight, but also arrival time for the taken alternative flight.This is set out in Article 7 of the Air Passenger Rights Regulation, “In determining the distance, the basis shall be the last destination at which the denial of boarding or cancellation will delay the passenger's arrival after the scheduled time”.

Requirements for my compensation

As set out above, it is not relevant whether the connecting flight itself took off late.It is, however, important that the first flight itself still falls under the Air Passenger Rights Regulation.This means that at least the take-off or landing has to be at an EU airport. In the latter case, the airline also has to be headquartered in the EU. Although you missed your connection, it is once again irrelevant whether you are an independent traveller or booked on a package holiday, using a low-cost airline, on a business trip or whether you are a child on a paid ticket.

Important: It doesn’t matter whether the airline has already provided you with meal or travel vouchers. You are entitled to compensation nonetheless.

How do I get my compensation?

Although air passengers are protected by the EU Regulation, many airlines nevertheless refuse to provide compensation or, in some cases, even the most basic additional services. Many airlines do not provide passengers with information on their rights, and block legitimate claims from customers who make enquiries or submit claims.

Many passengers can only get what they deserve with Flightright’s help. We assess your delayed flight free of charge and enforce your claims for you. Passengers can still assert their claims six years later. The 6 years are calculated from the end of the year during which the claim occurred. Enter your flight details into our free compensation calculator. You will find out right away whether or not you are entitled to compensation.

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What should I do if my connecting flight has left?

If passengers have booked all legs of their journey with one airline, then there is no question: the airline has to provide them with food and refreshments and arrange alternative transport as soon as possible. If, however, passengers have booked two legs separately with different airlines and the first flight is delayed, then unfortunately, they’re not entitled to compensation. Neither of the two airlines is obliged to provide them with any assistance during their stop. The ticket for the connecting flight might also become invalid - depending on the booking category.

Prevent any problems with connecting flights

The examples above show that the easiest way to go about things is to book the entire journey with one airline or alliance. If the first flight is only slightly delayed, then the airline might arrange for the connecting flight to wait a few minutes longer. Alternatively, passengers will be rebooked on to later flights. Assistance during the “stop” is ensured whatever happens.

Additional services in case of a delayed flight connection

Am I entitled to additional services?

If you have to wait a long time on your connecting flight, the airline has to provide you with additional services (according to the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation).It doesn’t matter whether you are entitled to compensation or whether extraordinary circumstances are at play. The only thing that is important is that you booked the individual legs as part of one booking.

You are entitled to the following:

For waiting times of 2 hours or more Flights of up to 1500 km Free drinks, meals and two telephone calls, emails or fax messages
For waiting times of 3 hours or more Flights 1500 - 3500 km Free drinks, meals and two telephone calls, emails or fax messages
For waiting times of 4 hours or more Flights of 3500 km or more Free drinks, meals and two telephone calls, emails or fax messages
For waiting times of 5 hours or more All flights Withdrawal from the contract of carriage + refund for the flight price
Flight delayed until the next day All flights Overnight accommodation in a hotel, including transfers

It doesn’t matter how much your flight costs. Passengers flying with low-cost airlines are also protected by the EU Regulation and as a result are entitled to compensation.

Exception: extraordinary circumstances

Airlines are not obliged to pay compensation in extraordinary circumstances, for example:

  • Strikes
  • Weather: heavy snow, storms, sleet, ash cloud
  • Bird strike
  • Airspace closure and risk of terrorism

This is set out in the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation: "An operating air carrier shall not be obliged to pay compensation if it can prove that the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. The burden of proof concerning the questions as to whether and when the passenger has been informed of the cancellation of the flight shall rest with the operating air carrier.”

My entitlement to cash compensation

You only receive compensation under EU law if the following requirements are met:

  • you arrive 3 hours late at your final destination
  • the flight took off or landed at an EU airport (airline is headquartered in the EU)
  • confirmed booking and ticket
  • normal fares or free/reduced tickets under customer loyalty/promotional programs
  • you did not book a free/reduced fare that is not available to the public
  • no extraordinary circumstances
  • you checked in on time (for the first leg)
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