The EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation

Since the EU 261 regulation was passed in 2004, passengers have been protected against severe flight disruption. The legislation confirms that long delays, cancellations, missed connections and flight re-bookings cause great inconvenience to the passenger, and as such affected passengers should be compensated.

Who does the EC Regulation 261/2004 apply to?

  • Passengers who have a valid ticket and booking confirmation
  • Passengers who: start their trip at an EU airport, or land in an EU airport, provided that the airline is headquartered in the EU

It doesn’t matter whether the passengers are

  • Booked on a package holiday
  • Using a low-cost airline
  • On a business trip or
  • Children (on a paid ticket) or
  • Flying on free or reduced tickets under customer loyalty or promotional programmes.

The EU Regulation does not apply to:

  • Passengers travelling on a free or reduced fare that is not available to the public either directly or indirectly.
  • Air passengers that did not check in on time. Unless notified otherwise, passengers should check in at least 45 minutes before departure (unless their flight has been cancelled)

Why is the Air Passenger Rights Regulation in place?

The EU regulation is in place to protect passengers against the inconvenience caused by long waiting times or flight cancellations, which the airline had the power to prevent. This is the ruling as stated in full: “Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights.” The regulation provides passengers with protection against travel disruption, and also serves as an incentive for the airlines to maintain a more punctual operation. These rights also apply for passengers travelling on a package holiday.

The EU regulation 261/2004 is concerned with the following:

  • It is intended for passengers who suffer delayed or cancelled flights, overbooking or denied boarding.
  • Depending on the circumstances, and subject to certain conditions, it may give rise to a claim for compensation of between €250 and €600 per person.
  • It provides assistance and access to basic services in the event of flights cancelled or delayed for several hours.
  • It offers the right to request a seat on another flight or to withdraw from the scheduled flight if it is cancelled or delayed by more than 5 hours.
  • It obliges airlines to inform their passengers of flight delays and cancellations and their rights.

When do I get compensation according to EU regulation No. 261/2004

Based on the 2004 EU261 ruling, your flight must either take off or land in the European Union, in the latter case the airline must also have is headquarters in the EU. Your claims are valid up to 6 years retrospectively. It does not matter whether you took the flight as business traveller or as part of a package holiday, it is the person who suffered the inconvenience of the flight disturbance who receives the compensation.

You are entitled to compensation in the following cases:

  • Delays: Your flight must have arrived at its destination 3 or more than 3 hours late
  • Cancellations: If you have been informed of cancellation less than 14 days before departure
  • Overbooking: The airline overbooked your flight and you will not find a seat on board, which is equivalent to denied boarding.
  • Missed connecting flight: If the final destination is reached 3 or more than 3 hours later due to a missed connecting flight This also applies if the connecting flight was operated by another airline as long as your ticket is valid for both legs of the flight.

The amount of compensation is dependant on the distance of the flight – not on the amount you paid for your ticket.

  • Short distance flight delays – Below 1500km – Passengers are due €250 compensation
  • Medium distance flight delays – Between 1500km and 3500km – Passengers are due €400 compensation
  • Long distance flight delays – Over 3500km – Passengers are due €600 compensation

The airlines must inform passengers about their rights

All airlines must clearly and completely inform its customers about their rights as air passengers. They must inform you by means of warnings at the time of invoicing, written notices in case of delay and updated information on their own website.

The Berlin Regional Court decided (judgment of 8 October 2015, exp.: 52 O 102/15; judgment not signed) that the Germania airline had to stop incorrectly informing its customers about their rights in the event of significant delays and oversold tickets. An information sheet published on its website on the payment of compensation and assistance in the event of overbooking, cancellation and substantial delays described passengers’ rights in an ambiguous and partially false manner. It did not contain an indication of the payment of compensation from €250 and €600, nor did it mention the possibility of reimbursement of the ticket price or the free flight back to the point of departure in the event of flight cancellation.