When you travel with commercial airlines, you should make sure you know your air passenger rights because they will help you avoid unpleasant situations in the event your flight gets cancelled. Knowing your rights will allow you to retain your right to compensation for the flight disruption.
EU passenger rights are protected by Regulation (EC) No 261/2004. Among other disruptions, this regulation covers cancelled flights — flights that didn’t happen but had at least one passenger. Therefore, you can fly with confidence knowing that you can receive compensation if your flight gets cancelled.
Requirements to receive compensation for a cancelled flight
You must meet specific requirements to be eligible for compensation for your cancelled flight. These requirements include flight origin, time of notifying about the cancellation, extraordinary circumstances, and so on.
To be eligible for compensation, your flight must begin inside the EU or land in the EU, but in the latter case, the carrier must be an EU-based airline. According to Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, flights to and from Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are also eligible for compensation. It must be noted that you have the right to receive flight compensation regardless of whether you travel on a charter, scheduled, or low-cost flight. What is more, is that package holidays can also be compensated.
Nevertheless, airlines can deny claims for compensation citing extraordinary circumstances. Extraordinary circumstances are strikes, political unrest, severe weather conditions, airport operations failures, aircraft manufacturing defects, birds flying into airplane engines, and similar disruptions. However, airline staff strikes do not fall under extraordinary circumstances.
Airlines can also reject claims for flight compensation if you arrive at the departure gate late. Make sure you are at the gate on time, regardless of whether you know that your flight is cancelled in advance. Furthermore, airlines can reject your claim if you bought your flight ticket with a special tariff (for example, an airline staff tariff,) which is not available to other customers directly.
The date when the airline informed you about cancelling your flight is important. An airline is not required to compensate you if they informed you about the cancellation 14 days before departure or earlier. However, you would qualify for compensation if the airline informed you about the cancellation between 14 and 7 days before departure and an alternative flight arrived more than 4 hours later than the original flight would have. Furthermore, if the airline informed you about the cancellation less than 7 days before departure and an alternative flight arrived more than 2 hours later than the original flight would have, you can also claim compensation.
To summarize, you have to meet certain requirements to claim compensation for your cancelled flight. It’s also important that you file your compensation claim as soon as possible because time limits for filing a claim vary between countries. See the table below for when your claim for compensation is valid.
|Compensation claims are valid for:||Compensation claims are invalid for:|
|Flights that begin inside the EU||Flight disruptions that occur due to extraordinary circumstances. Flight staff strikes excluded|
|Flights that land in the EU (if the carrier is an EU-based airline)||Passengers that arrived late to the departure gate|
|Flights in Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland||Passengers that bought special tariff tickets|
|Charter, scheduled and low-cost flights, and package holidays||Passengers that were informed about the cancellation at least 14 days before departure|
|Passengers that were informed about the cancellation between 14 and 7 days before departure and the alternative flight arrived more than 4 hours later than the original flight would have|
|Passengers that were informed about the cancellation less than 7 days before departure and the alternative flight arrived more than 2 hours later than the original flight would have|
|Passengers that applied for compensation before the end of the claim submission date in a particular country|
Cancelled flight compensation amount
If an airline informed you about cancelling your flight less than 14 days before departure, you can claim flight compensation. If your alternative flight arrived 3 hours later than your original flight would have arrived, then, based on the flight distance, you can claim a specific amount that may be the following:
- €250, if the distance is less than 1500 km.
- €400, if the distance is 1500 – 3500 km.
- €600, if the distance is greater than 3500 km.
Note that your compensation amount may be reduced by up to 50% if you agree to take an alternative flight offered by the airline, and the flight arrives at your destination airport less than 2-4 hours late, depending on the flight distance.
Airlines are required to provide you with care service (even in extraordinary circumstances) under conditions that include the following:
|Inside the EU||Outside the EU|
|Flight distance less than 1500 km with a delay of more than 2 hours||Flight distance less than 1500 km with a delay of more than 2 hours|
|Flight distance less than 1500 km with a delay of more than 3 hours||Flight distance less than 1500 km with a delay of more than 3 hours|
|Flight distance less than 3500 km with a delay of more than 4 hours|
Care services include:
- Food and beverages. Airlines must provide you with food and beverages in proportion to your waiting hours.
- Telephone and Internet. Airlines must provide you with up to 2 phone calls, fax or email.
- Accommodation. Airlines must pay for the hotel if an overnight stay is needed while waiting. They must also provide you with transportation from and to the airport.
What you should do if your flight gets cancelled
Every passenger should know what to do in the event of a flight cancellation. You should know that airlines are usually not concerned with compensating you, so it’s important that you know your rights and communicate with the airline. Here is a list of useful tips to remember if your flight gets cancelled:
- Keep your boarding pass and any other travel documents with you. Don’t throw them away.
- Ask the airline staff for written confirmation explaining why your flight got cancelled.
- Don’t sign any documents that would waive your air passenger rights for that particular flight.
- Stay at the departure gate until you get all the information about the alternative flight, ticket refund, and so on.
- Check for alternative flights yourself first as you may find a good deal on tickets.
- Don’t forget to inform the airline staff about your intention to book an alternative flight on your own.
- Request for an alternative flight or a full ticket refund.
- Take a photo proving the landing time of your alternative flight.
- Ask the airline staff to provide you with food and beverages, phone calls, internet, hotel accommodation, and transportation should you require it. Airlines must provide care services even in the event of extraordinary circumstances.
- Collect receipts of expenses you had such as for food and beverages, transportation or hotel accommodation.
Important things to know before you apply for compensation
Here is what you should remember before you file a compensation claim.
- File your claim for compensation as soon as possible because time limits for filing a claim vary between countries.
- If you got a higher class seat on your alternative flight, you don’t have to pay additionally. However, If you got a lower class seat, you can get compensation of 30 — 75% of the price you paid.
- Each passenger receives compensation. If you travel with your family and your flight gets cancelled, all your family members can receive compensation.
- If you were on a business trip, you are the one who should apply for compensation — not the company that paid for the ticket.
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