The rights of passengers in case of flight delay, flight cancellation and denied boarding are stated in EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation (EC) No 261/2004. The European Parliament and the European Council have clearly defined when, and in what form, passengers are entitled to compensation and assistance services by the airlines.
The Air Passenger Rights are applicable to all flights departing the EU, and all flights arriving in the EU on an airline with headquarters in the EU. This applies to charter, scheduled and low cost flights, with all types of flights treated equally under the regulation. The compensation is to be provided by the operating airline; however this is not automatically the company with which the plane ticket was purchased.
Compensation claims for negligence by the airline
In principle, compensation claims can be asserted several years after the scheduled flight date. In the UK the period is three years. In cases of flight delay, cancellation and denied boarding, the regulation requires airlines to pay compensation if deemed responsible for the disruption. This is the case, for example, when an aircraft is delayed due to technical defects.
The regulation also requires that airlines compensate travellers in the event of flight cancellations, if passengers were not informed of the flight changes at least 14 days prior. In order to enforce a claim, a passenger must have arrived at the airport at the scheduled time to check-in.
The compensation amount is dependent on the distance of the flight route:
- £210 for a distance up to 1500 kilometers;
- £330 for flights within the EU with distance greater than 1500 kilometers, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometers;
- £500 for a distance greater than 3500 kilometers, if this is not just within the EU
Claims in respect of non-fault by the airline
In circumstances in which the airlines have no control, according to the Air Passenger Rights Regulation, they are under no obligation to make a payment of compensation. These circumstances include strikes and weather conditions such as heavy snow or freezing rain, as well as unexpected events such as ash cloud that make timely launching and landing impossible.
In these exceptional situations, passengers are still entitled to a certain level of care and support from the airlines under EU Regulation. Services to be provided by the airline include meals, beverages, means of communication, as well as hotel accommodation if required. In addition, the airlines must give passengers the option to receive a refund on the ticket, free transportation to the initial point of departure, or re-routing to the final destination.
Air Passenger Rights Regulation: Development and Prospects
The current Regulation (No. 261/2004) was established on 11 February 2004 by the European Parliament and the European Council and entered into force on 17 February 2005. Its validity was confirmed by the European Court in the court proceedings (Rs C-344/04) of 10 January 2006. Since October 2012, the European Court of Justice has strengthened the rights of air passengers several times. A judgment made on 26 February 2013 is of particular significance, determining that travellers have a right to compensation if a connecting flight is missed due to a delay. This decision established that compensation is to be based not on the flight delay of a single flight, but the delay of arrival at the final destination.
A revision of air passenger rights was launched in March 2013. This revision aims to ensure a better application of passenger rights by eliminated legal gray areas. In addition, the airlines will be obliged to inform their passengers as soon as possible about the circumstances that lead to irregularities in the flight schedule. This could have a negative effect for passengers, with the potential of increasing the delay time, which leads to a claim for compensation, from three to five hours.