Passenger’s rights

Having problems with your journey?

The European Union (EU) has strengthened your rights. Here are the most important ones (as of 17th February 2005):

Denied boarding and cancellation

If you are denied boarding or your flight is cancelled, the airline operating your flight must offer you financial compensation and assistance. Provided you check in on time, these rights apply to any flight, including charters: from an EU airport, or to an EU airport from one outside the EU, when operated by an EU airline.
When there are too many passengers and not enough seats available, the airline must first ask volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for agreed benefits. These must include the choice of either a refund of your ticket (with a free flight back to your initial point of departure, when relevant) or alternative transport to your final destination.
If you are not a volunteer, the airline must pay you a compensation of:

  1. 250 € for flights covering a distance shorter than 1 500 km,
  2. 400 € for longer flights within the EU, and for other flights covering a distance between 1 500 and 3 500 km,
  3. 600 € for flights covering a distance longer than 3 500 km outside the EU.

If the flight is not delayed more than 2, 3 or 4 hours, respectively, the compensation may be reduced by 50%.
The airline must also give you: a choice of either a refund of your ticket (with a free flight back to your initial point of departure, when relevant) or alternative transport to your final destination, as well as meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation when necessary (including transfers) and communication facilities.

Cancellation

Whenever your flight is cancelled, the operating airline must provide you with:

  1. a choice of either a refund of your ticket (with a free flight back to your initial point of departure, when relevant) or alternative transport to your final destination, and
  2. meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation when necessary (including transfers) and communication facilities.

The airline may also have to compensate you, at the same level as for the denied boarding, unless it gives you sufficient advance notice and offers alternative transport at the time close to the original date.
Compensation or refunds may be paid in cash, by a bank transfer or cheque or, with your signed agreement, in travel vouchers, and must be paid within 7 days. If any of these rights are denied to you, complain immediately to the airline operating the flight.

Long delays

Immediate assistance

If you check in on time for any flight, including charters:

  1. from an EU airport, or
  2. to an EU airport from one outside the EU, when operated by an EU airline,

and if the airline operating the flight expects a delay:

  1. of 2 hours or more, for flights covering a distance shorter than 1 500 km,
  2. of 3 hours or more, for longer flights within the EU, and for other flights covering a distance between 1 500 and 3 500 km,
  3. of 4 hours or more for flights covering a distance longer than 3 500 km outside the EU, the airline must provide you with meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation when necessary (including transfers) and communication facilities.

When the delay is 5 hours or more, the airline must also offer to refund your ticket (with a free flight back to your initial point of departure, when relevant). If any of these rights are denied to you, complain immediately to the airline operating the flight.

Pursuing claims at a later date

When an EU airline is responsible for the delay of your flight anywhere in the world, you may claim up to 4 150 SDR* for any resulting damages. If the airline does not agree with your claim, you may go to court.
You can bring a claim for compensation from the airline with which you have signed a contract or from the airline actually operating the flight, if they are different airlines.
* 1 SDR = 1,18 € as at 30.09.2004. For the current exchange rate, please contact Europe Direct.

Baggage

You may claim up to 1 000 SDR* for damages caused by destruction, damage, loss or delay of your baggage during a flight with an EU airline, anywhere in the world. If the airline does not agree with your claim, you may go to court.  Any claims for damage the checked-in baggage must be brought in writing within 7 days of baggage reclaim and when the baggage is delayed within 21 days of its return.
You can bring a claim for compensation from the airline which with you have signed a contract or the airline actually operating the flight, if they are different airlines.
* 1 SDR = 1,18 € as at 30.09.2004. For the current exchange rate, please contact Europe Direct.

Injury and death in accidents

You may claim for damages caused by injury or death resulting from an accident on a flight by an EU airline, anywhere in the world. You have the right to an advance payment for immediate economic needs. If the airline does not agree with your claim, you may go to court.
You can claim from the airline with which you have a contract or from that actually operating the flight, if they are different.

Package holidays

In addition to the rights described above, you may claim damages from your tour operator if it fails to provide the services you have booked within the EU, whatever your destination. These rights apply to a failure to provide any flight included in your package. Moreover, if the tour operator does not provide a significant part of the package booked, it is obliged to assist you and make alternative arrangements, including travel, without extra cost to you.

What to do first

If you encounter one of the problems covered in this leaflet, then you should immediately ask the representative of the airline operating your flight to deal with the problem.
If you are affected by denied boarding, a cancellation or a long delay and the operating airline does not fulfil their obligations, then you should complain to the relevant national enforcement body. If your flight departs from an EU country, complain there. If you are travelling from outside to the EU to the EU Member State and if your flight is operated by an EU airline, complain in the EU country where it lands.
For the name and address of the relevant authority or details of organisations which can advise or help with other complaints (for example, baggage, injury or death, package holidays), contact the Europe Direct freephone on 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11, or e-mail to: mail@europe-direct.cec.eu.int.
You may inform the European Commission, B-1049 Brussels, of the follow-up given to your complaint by fax (32-2) 29 91015 or e-mail to: tren-aprights@cec.eu.int.

Further information

This material provides a summary of the relevant EU legislation. Any legal claim or action taken in the event of a dispute should be based solely on the legal texts concerned. These may be found in the Official Journal of the European Union.

  1. Compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights: Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 (OJ L 46, 17.2.2004).
  2. Air carrier liability, Regulation (EC) No 889/2002 amending Regulation (EC) No 2027/97 (OJ L 140, 30.5.2002) incorporating into EU law the “Montreal Convention” for the unification of certain rules for international carriage by air (OJ L 194, 18.7.2001).
  3. Package travel, holidays and tours, Directive 90/314/EEC (OJ L 158, 23.6.1990).

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