Top ten EU air pas­sen­ger rights

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - 60 YEARS OF EUROPEAN UNITY - John Hearne

We don’t “grow our own” – Ire­land im­ports most of its fruit and veg­eta­bles – in fact when it comes to pota­toes we’re near the bot­tom of the list at just 0.7% of the EU’s to­tal crop.

EU FACT

The sin­gle mar­ket for air travel has had a huge im­pact on the rights and pro­tec­tions for air pas­sen­gers in the EU.

If a flight is de­layed or can­celled, if you are de­nied board­ing, or if your lug­gage goes AWOL, EU leg­is­la­tion en­sures you have a wide range of en­ti­tle­ments.

Here are ten of the best.

1. In­for­ma­tion rules

To start with, the air­lines are re­quired to let you know what your rights are. At check-in, they must promi­nently dis­play this no­tice: “If you are de­nied board­ing or if your flight is can­celled or de­layed for at least two hours, ask at the check- in counter or board­ing gate for the text stat­ing your rights, no­tably with re­gard to com­pen­sa­tion and as­sis­tance.”

2. Free food and board

If a flight is de­layed for two or more hours ( de­pend­ing on the dis­tance of the flight) you should get free meals and re­fresh­ments as well as two free tele­phone calls or emails. Where a stay of one or more nights be­comes nec­es­sary, you must also be of­fered ho­tel ac­com­mo­da­tion and trans­port be­tween the air­port and the ho­tel.

3. Full re­im­burse­ment

If the flight is de­layed by five hours or more, you can opt for re­im­burse­ment of the full cost of the ticket. Once the re­fund is ac­cepted, you’re not en­ti­tled to any­thing more. How­ever, if you’ve al­ready started your jour­ney but your orig­i­nal travel plan is scup­pered, be­cause — for ex­am­ple — of a missed con­nect­ing flight, then you have a right to a re­turn flight to the orig­i­nal point of de­par­ture at no ex­tra cost. If your air car­rier can’t do this free of charge, they have to re­im­burse you for any expenses in­curred. So hold on to your re­ceipts.

4. Court rul­ings

Al­though the reg­u­la­tions never set out com­pen­sa­tion for de­layed ar­rivals, a Court of Jus­tice rul­ing a few years ago es­tab­lished that pas­sen­gers whose flights reach their fi­nal des­ti­na­tion three hours or more af­ter the sched­uled ar­rival time can get the same com­pen­sa­tion as those whose flights are can­celled — un­less the air­line can prove that the de­lay was caused by ‘ ex­tra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances’.

5. Con­sumer choices

If you have been af­fected by a flight can­cel­la­tion, you should be given a choice of rerout­ing to your fi­nal des­ti­na­tion or a re­fund for any parts of the jour­ney can­celled or not com­pleted be­cause of the can­cel­la­tion. If you choose rerout­ing, the air car­rier has to of­fer an al­ter­na­tive flight to your fi­nal des­ti­na­tion.

6. Ap­pro­pri­ate as­sis­tance

If your flight is can­celled, you’re en­ti­tled to ‘ap­pro­pri­ate as­sis­tance’ — which ef­fec­tively means meals, re­fresh­ments, ho­tel ac­com­mo­da­tion, and free phone calls. How much you get de­pends on the dis­tance of the flight and how long you have to wait to be rerouted.

7. Lev­els of com­pen­sa­tion

The reg­u­la­tion also sets out lev­els of com­pen­sa­tion payable in cases of flight can­cel­la­tion. How much you get de­pends on when you were in­formed of the can­cel­la­tion, the ar­range­ments for an al­ter­na­tive flight, the dis­tance of the flight, and the rea­son for the can­cel­la­tion. The gen­eral rule is if they told you of the can­cel­la­tion at least two weeks be­fore de- par­ture, they don’t have to pay any­thing. Oth­er­wise, the dis­tance of the flight de­ter­mines the amount of com­pen­sa­tion due:

■ € 250 per pas­sen­ger for flights of 1,500km or less.

■ € 400 per pas­sen­ger for flights within the EU of more than 1,500km or for other flights be­tween 1,500km and 3,500km.

■ €600 per pas­sen­ger for all other flights.

Note too that the amount of com­pen­sa­tion payable may be cut in half if the rerout­ing of­fered al­lows you to ar­rive at your fi­nal des­ti­na­tion close to the orig­i­nal sched­uled ar­rival time ( within two to four hours de­pend­ing on the dis­tance of the flight).

8. Over­booked flights

When a flight is over­booked, the air­line must call on pas­sen­gers to vol­un­teer their seats to other pas­sen­gers. Any­one who vol­un­teers is en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion; how much is be­tween you and the air­line.

Vol­un­teers can also choose be­tween an al­ter­na­tive flight or a re­fund. Re­mem­ber, how­ever, if not enough vol­un­teers come for­ward, the air­line can refuse to board pas­sen­gers against their will. If you are de­nied board­ing, de­spite hav­ing be­ing on time and so on, the air­line must of­fer you both ‘ care and as­sis­tance’ and com­pen­sa­tion along the same lines as spec­i­fied above.

9. Bag­gage com­pen­sa­tion Un­der the Mon­treal Con­ven­tion, you can claim com­pen­sa­tion if your checked bag­gage fails to ar­rive on time or is dam­aged.

Al­though air­lines dif­fer in their ap­proaches to com­pen­sa­tion, you may have to prove how much you lost with re­ceipts.

10. Price trans­parency

Full price trans­parency is an obli­ga­tion un­der the Air Ser­vices Reg­u­la­tion.

This says the pub­lished price must in­clude the fare and all ap­pli­ca­ble taxes, charges, sur­charges, and fees. If you book a flight on­line, the fi­nal price must be avail­able from the first page, al­low­ing you to com­pare prices across air­lines.

If a flight is de­layed or can­celled, if you are de­nied board­ing, or if your lug­gage goes AWOL, leg­is­la­tion en­sures you have a wide range of en­ti­tle­ments.

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