There’s no better type of flight compensation than the famous European Union Flight Compensation Regulation 261. The regulation establishes rules regarding compensation and assistance in case of flight cancellation, long delays, or denied boarding due to overbooking. You can be compensated anywhere from EUR 250 to EUR 600, the EU261 compensation amount depends on the flight distance and the nature of the event.
When Does EU261 Apply?
EU261 applies only if the cancellation or delay was caused by a circumstance within the airline’s control. It does not apply to circumstances outside of the airline’s control (for example: weather).
EU261 applies under a variety of circumstances. The regulation applies to you if you depart from an airport located in the EU or a territory of an EU country (if the treaty applies). The regulation applies if you are also flying to an EU country on an airline based in an EU country. You must have a confirmed reservation on the flight and have arrived on-time and checked in within the required time.
The EU261 regulation will not apply if you are flying on a free ticket or a discount ticket which is not available to the public.
The regulation does apply to Switzerland, even though the country is not in the European Union.
When your flight is cancelled, you have a variety of choices: rebooking on other flights to the same destination, rebooking on a later flight at your convenience, or a refund of your ticket. If the airline rebooks you on a flight to a different airport in the same city, you are entitled transportation to your original airport or an agreed upon point.
EU261 will not apply if:
- you are notified at least two weeks before departure
- you are notified between one and two weeks before departure and are rebooked so you depart no more than two hours earlier than originally scheduled and arrive no more than four hours later than originally scheduled
- you are notified less than one week before departure and are rebooked so you depart no more than one hour earlier than originally scheduled and arrive no more than two hours later than originally scheduled
- your flight was cancelled by extraordinary circumstances that could not be avoided
If you are denied boarding due to overbooking you are entitled to compensation under EU261. Compensation depends on the distance of the flight.
Airlines are entitled to provide refreshments and communication if a flight is delayed. If your original flight has been moved to the next day, you are entitled accommodation. Refreshments and communication must be provided if the delay is more than two hours on a flight of 1500 km or less, more than three hours on a flight more than 1500 km within the EU or a 1500 – 3500 km flight, and more than four hours for flights longer than 3500 km.
If your flight is delayed by five hours, you can decide to not travel and receive a refund of the un-flown flight segments. If your flight arrival is delayed by more than 3 hours, you are entitled to compensation (unless the delay was caused by an event beyond the airline’s control).
If eligible, you are entitled to compensation based on the flight distance:
- Flights 1500 km or less
- Flight Cancellation: EUR 250
- Flight within the EU more than 1500 km OR a flight 1500 – 3500 km
- Flight Cancellation: EUR 400
- A non-EU flight longer than 3500 km
- Flight Cancellation: EUR 600
Compensation payments are issued as compensation for the passenger’s inconvenience. Airlines are not required to pay compensation for extraordinary circumstances which are outside of their control.
You will likely have to argue strongly with the airline in order to receive your compensation payment as many airlines come up with ridiculous excuses in order to not pay these compensations. Remember that if your flight was cancelled or delayed because of an event that the airline could have controlled, you are entitled to compensation. For example, if your flight was cancelled because of a mechanical issue with the aircraft, you are entitled to compensation.
Cancellations or delays due to weather situations are obviously not covered as weather is outside of the airline’s control.
EU261 is a very powerful regulation which strongly favours the passengers as long as the airline is to blame for the delay or cancellation. Compensation amounts apply per passenger and per flight. Compensation payments must be made by the airline within a reasonable amount of days. The airline may deny you if you do not strongly word your request for compensation and also demonstrate that you understand EU261 rules in your request.
In addition to the compensation received, you are also entitled to a refund of any other necessary purchases during the flight delay or cancellation. For example, a train ticket to your hotel if your flight was cancelled. The airline must provide accommodation if they have rebooked you on a flight departing the following day. They also must provide meal vouchers and methods of communication.
Remember to carefully analyse if EU261 rules apply to your delayed/cancelled flight before submitting a request to the airline. You can read more about EU261 on the airline’s website and you are entitled the full set of rules from the airline if your flight was significantly delayed or cancelled.