Regulation EU261 is not new legislation and has in fact been in place since February 2004 after being brought in to protect passengers travelling on flights. There has, however, been some recent high profile cases that have brought this legislation to the fore. Below is a guide to help you understand just what some of these rights are as a passenger who suffers a delay or flight cancellation:
The EU261 in a Nutshell:
- Ruling EU261 Applies to scheduled and non scheduled flights.
- The responsibility in the event of delays and cancellations to a flight lies with the carrier whether they own the plane or have it on lease.
- The ruling applies to all airports based in EU member states
- Passengers flights who are cancelled should be able to obtain re-imbursement of their tickets or re-routed under satisfactory conditions and adequately cared for until their newly scheduled flight. This applies to all customers who have volunteered to cancel their flight or been denied boarding against their will. Denied boarding isn’t where a customer has had too much to drink and is deemed unsafe to fly and as such isn’t allowed access to the plane. Denied boarding is defined when the flight is oversubscribed and there are not enough volunteers to reduce the number of the over subscription as a result customers are denied access
- If you flight is delayed for a specified time you should be adequately cared for and should be able to cancel your flights with reimbursement of your ticket or alternatively you can continue with the delayed flight but under satisfactory conditions
Where cancellations or delays are caused by extraordinary circumstances that the carrier could not have avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. Then the obligations on the carrier will be limited or excluded.
Such circumstances may occur in cases of:
- Political instability,
- meteorological conditions incompatible with the operation of the flight concerned,
- security risks,
- unexpected flight safety shortcomings
- strikes that affect the operation of an operating air carrier.
- When package tours are cancelled for reasons other than the flight being cancelled
Cancellation of Your Flight
If you flight is cancelled completely then you should be offered full re-imbursement within 7 days for the full cost of the flights you have not yet taken for both your outbound and inbound flights.
If the flight is cancelled and the expected time of departure is at least the day after the original departure was planned for you should receive :
- Meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time;
- hotel accommodation in cases: where a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary, or where a stay additional to that intended by the passenger becomes necessary
- transport between the airport and place of accommodation (hotel or other).
In addition you should be offered free of charge two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails.
You also have the right to compensation, please see the heading of Compensation below.
Compensation Isn’t Paid if:
- Extraordinary circumstances have come into play
- You are informed of the cancellation between 7 & 14 days of your scheduled departure time and you still reach your final destination less than 4 hours after the scheduled time of arrival
- You are informed of the cancellation less than 7 days of your scheduled departure time and you still reach your final destination less than 2 hours after the scheduled time of arrival
Delays & Compensation
Below is how a delay is categorized in terms of time and distance and the amount you can expect to receive by way of compensation. Even if you are provided with accommodation, meals etc this is still the level of compensation you can claim on top. As this is an EU ruling the amounts are set in Euros so the days exchange rate will apply:
- If your flight is delayed more than 2 hours and the distance you were travelling is less than 930 miles (or 1500kilometres) 250 Euros
- If your flight is delayed more than 3 hours in the case of all flights between EU member countries that are over 930 miles (or 1500km) or for trips that are between 930 and 2150 miles (1500 & 3500 Km’s) 400 Euros
- If your flight is delayed more than 4 hours and does not come under the two points above 600 Euros
An example at a rate of 1.2 Euros to £1 would mean compensation of 250 Euros would provide you with £208.
You can receive your compensation by way:
- electronic bank transfer,
- bank orders
- bank cheques
- or with your agreement in travel vouchers and/or other services
Compensation is of course great news for all those frustrated fliers who have spent hours wandering the airport or trying to sleep on what must be the most uncomfortable seats ever designed with a rucksack as a pillow. If you have been one of these unfortunates then the great news is that not only are you eligible for compensation and the correct treatment for any future delays you experience but also that you can backdate your claim on delays that you have experienced for up to 6 years.
There is of course and there always is a catch. Carriers are obviously very aware of this legislation and do not pay out compensation out of the goodness of their hearts. These potential overheads are already factored into the flight prices you pay and the more claims that are made through this legislation the more the carriers will increase their flight prices to cover this rising cost. You could liken this to car insurance, the higher the claims the higher the prices we all have to pay.
There is also then the more worrying factor of the pressures placed on pilots, grounds staff, air traffic controllers, executives within the carrier companies to cut corners or take a chance on safety to ensure flights are in the air on time and as such avoid having to pay compensation.
Fortunately, huge delays are in the minority and the majority of travellers are able to enjoy their flights and subsequent holidays.
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