Why were air passenger rights introduced?
Since the early 1990s travelling by plane has taken off significantly. However, this rapid growth has also led to some inconveniences, which have often affected passengers.
Faced with these developments, the EU has been working since 1991 to guarantee equal basic rights for all passengers by developing EU legislation to apply in all European Union countries.
In February 2005, EC Regulation 261/ 2004 came into effect. This Regulation establishes common rules on compensation and assistance to air passengers in certain situations. This legislation applies to passengers departing from airports situated within the territory of a Member State and to all those arriving into such airports from a third country where the flight is operated by a European carrier.
What rights do air passengers with a disability or reduced mobility have?
Under EU legislation people with disabilities and/or reduced mobility are protected from being discriminated during reservation and boarding. They are also entitled to receive assistance at airports (on departure, on arrival and in transit) and on board airplanes. In order to facilitate the provision of assistance, it is recommended to pre-notify your needs.
Which are the basic rights?
When a flight is disrupted, passengers are entitled to:
- receive information from airlines (e.g. on your rights, on the situation as it evolves, cancellations and length of delays)
- choose between reimbursement of ticket price or be re-routed to final destination, (attention: for long delays, this right is applicable only for delays of more than five hours)
- receive appropriate care (refreshments, meals, accommodation or transportation to and from the airport as appropriate), while awaiting re-routing or in case of long delays, (depending on the length of the flight, for instance, two hours of delay for flights of 1500 kilometers or less, or three hours for all intra-community flights).
What happens when a flight gets overbooked?
When a flight is overbooked, airlines are obliged to first seek for volunteers ready to give up their reservation in exchange for certain benefits (for example air miles, or vouchers, or money, or the right to extra-ticket, or to be upgraded in a different flight). In addition the air carrier must always offer volunteers the choice between a full refund of their previous reservation or a re-routing.
Passengers may be entitled to compensation of between €250 and €600 depending on the distance of the flight and the delays experienced before being re-routed.
Whenever the re-routing is chosen, the airline must provide the passengers having volunteered for it all the necessary assistance, e.g. some food and drinks, access to a phone, an overnight stay if necessary and, if appropriate, transportation between the airport and the place of accommodation.
What happens when a flight gets cancelled?
Passengers are also entitled to a compensation identical to that offered when they are denied boarding, unless they were informed at least 14 days in advance of the flight, or if they can be rerouted close to their original departure timing, or if the airline can prove that the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances. In addition the airline must offer passengers the choice between:
- reimbursement, within seven days, of the ticket price or of the unused parts of the ticket, when appropriate.
- re-routing to the final destination under similar transport conditions, including through other air carriers or other transport modes .
If necessary, passengers awaiting re-rerouting are entitled to appropriate care (phone call, refreshments, food, accommodation, transportation to the accommodation).
What happens if there are long delays?
If the flight suffers a delay of three hours or more, passengers may be entitled to a compensation identical to that offered when the flight gets cancelled, unless the airline can prove that the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances. Additionally, airlines can be held liable for damages resulting from delays.
Passengers are entitled to appropriate care by the airline (phone call, refreshments, meal, accommodation, transportation to the place of accommodation) if the delay is
- two hours or more for flights of 1500 km or less
- three hours or more for longer flights within the EU or for flights outside the EU of between 1500 and 3500 km
- four hours or more for flights of over 3500 km outside the EU
If the delay is more than five hours, and passengers decide not to continue their journey, they are entitled to have their ticket reimbursed and be flown back to where they originally started their journey.
What happens if baggage gets lost, damaged or delayed?
- If baggage gets lost, damaged or delayed, passengers may be entitled to compensation limited to about €1220.
- For damaged baggage, passengers must lodge a claim to the airline within seven days of receiving their baggage.
- For delayed receipt of baggage, the claim must be lodged within 21 days
Are air passengers entitled to know who they will be flying with?
Passengers must be informed in advance about which airline is operating their flight. Airlines found to be unsafe are banned or restricted within the European Union.
They are listed at: http://ec.europa.eu/transport/air-ban/
What about package holidays?
The organisers and retailers of package holidays are obliged to provide precise, complete information about booked package holidays. They are obliged to honour contractual terms and to protect passengers in the event of insolvency. Package tour operators must give accurate information on the holiday booked, comply with contractual obligations and protect passengers in the case of the organiser's insolvency.
What rights do air passengers have when buying their tickets?
According to EU legislation, when purchasing air fares within the EU, the applicable conditions should be made clear to the buyer. The final price to be paid should be indicated at all times and should include the applicable air fare, as well as applicable taxes, charges, surcharges and fees which are unavoidable and foreseeable at the time of publication. It should also show the breakdown between the fare, the taxes, the airport charges and finally the other charges, surcharges and fees. Optional price supplements should be communicated in a clear, transparent and unambiguous way at the start of the booking process and the acceptance of them should be on an "opt-in" basis.
What if airlines do not accept this, or if they will not apply the rights I have?
If you have problems claiming your passenger rights you need to complain - firstly to the air carrier and if you are still dissatisfied with its answer, then to the competent national body.
Furthermore, passengers can always address themselves to the competent court, i.e. by first having resort to the small claim procedure that may exist in a Member State or the European small claim procedure. This European small claim procedure aims to accelerate the settlement, simplify procedures and reduce the costs in civil and commercial cross-border disputes where the value of a claim does not exceed € 2,000.This procedure works on the basis of standard forms. It is a written procedure unless an oral hearing is considered necessary by the court. It works between all Member States of the European Union with the exception of Denmark.
More information on European small claims procedure can be found on the Commission website:
If you need more information on your EU rights and how to access them?
Travellers affected by the situation are advised to contact their airlines or travel agents first.
For information you can contact a European Consumer Centre (ECC) in any country and/or any national consumer organisation.
Full contact details for ECCs for all countries and links to national websites can be found at
There is also a Europe Direct phone line - advertised on posters in many airports throughout Europe where you can also get more information.
Telephone: 00800 6 7 8 9 10 11
For more information on your rights visit the website:
Helen Kearns : Telephone +32.2.298.76.38 email@example.com
Dale Kidd : Telephone +32.2.295.74.61 firstname.lastname@example.org