Top ten EU air passenger rights
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.
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.