Have you ever had to reschedule your travel plans due to a flight cancellation or delay? Even if it’s little consolation in such a situation, the EU Flight Compensation Regulation clearly defines what you are entitled to and what compensation the airlines must pay in such cases.
My flight has been canceled. Am I entitled to a ticket refund?
According to the European Flight Compensation Regulation, as an airline passenger you are always entitled to either a refund of your ticket or alternative transportation if the airline cancels your flight.
This canceled flight has cost me time and stress. Am I entitled to some kind of compensation for personal suffering?
If the airline cancels a flight less than two weeks before departure, passengers are entitled to compensation. However, the airline does have the right to cite extraordinary circumstances or force majeure.
What are extraordinary circumstances?
Examples of extraordinary circumstances are:
The coronavirus pandemic was also classified as an extraordinary circumstance. In this exceptional case, however, the airlines were required to refund the ticket price, provide alternative travel arrangements or offer to rebook the flight for a later date.
How does the airline pay the refund and how long does it have to do so?
If the airline cancels the flight, it is required to refund the ticket price within seven days. The refund can be made in cash, by bank transfer or by check.
Under EU Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004, airline passengers from EU/EFTA countries who begin or end travel at an airport in an EU or EFTA country (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) are entitled to compensation of up to EUR 600 if the airline fails to provide carriage.
However, this right applies only in the event of short-term flight cancellations no earlier than two weeks prior to departure and if the airline offers no alternative flight corresponding to the provisions of the EC regulation, article 5, para. 1(c).
What is the compensation based on?
The designated compensation depends on the length of the flight route booked:
The airline can reduce the compensation by 50% if the passengers affected are offered a reasonable alternative flight. An alternative flight is considered reasonable for a flight distance:
When are passengers not entitled to compensation?
Since the Sturgeon judgment of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in 2009, this compensation rule applies even in the case of delays of more than 3 hours – but only if the flight begins or ends in an EU country.
If a cancellation or delay occurs due to exceptional circumstances (bad weather conditions, bird strike, technical failure despite sufficient maintenance, threat of terrorism, medical incidents, strikes, etc.), the airline is not to blame – and passengers are not entitled to compensation.
Do I have to accept a voucher?
No, you are not required to accept a voucher.
Is the airline permitted to charge me a fee for refunding the ticket?
Airlines generally do not charge a fee. The credit card company may charge a fee for foreign payments. It is also standard in the industry for travel agents, e.g. eDreams, Kiwi, Bravofly, etc., to deduct a processing fee for initiating a refund. This is usually set out in the terms and conditions and is therefore legal.
What are my rights if my flight times are changed?
If there is a significant change in flight times, you are contractually entitled to cancel.
You are entitled to compensation if you were notified of the altered flight time up to seven days before departure and the flight leaves more than one hour earlier or arrives at the destination more than two hours later. The amount of compensation also depends on the flight distance.
If a flight is delayed for 5 or more hours, passengers may cancel the flight and request a refund of the ticket price. In this case, however, no additional compensation is owed.
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