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Since 2004, air travellers have various passenger rights under EU Regulation EC 261 in case of disruptions to their flight. In a 6 part series, I will cover the aspects of this regulation and also give tips on how to claim compensation from an airline.
Passenger rights in the event of delay (this article)
Rights in the event of denied boarding or downgrade (upcoming)
Claiming compensation (upcoming)
EC 261 : Remarks (upcoming)
In this article, I am going to look at passenger rights in the event of a delayed flight. For the applicability of EU Regulation 261, please read the first article. For more extensive information about the duty of care and the right to assistance, read the article about passenger rights in the event of cancellation.
Amount of Delay
Passengers rights in case of delay (Article 6) are applicable depending on the amount of (expected) delay, divided in 3 categories:
(a) two hours, in respect of all flights of 1500 kilometres or less; or
(b) three hours, in respect of all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres; or
(c) four hours, in respect of all flights not falling under (a) or (b)
These distances are ‘great circle‘ distances between the first departure point and final destination, even in case of a transfer.
Care and Assistance
Passengers whose flight delay fall within the conditions mentioned above are first of all entitled to care under Article 9; meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time and two free phone calls or emails. If the delay causes a flight to be operated the next day, the airline must provide hotel accommodation and transfer.
If the amount of delay exceeds 5 hours, you also have to option to quit the journey. You are then entitled to a full refund for the segment or segments not travelled. If you are already at a transfer airport, you should also be provided a flight back to the point of departure at the earliest opportunity (Article 8). If travelling further serves no purpose and you return to the point of origin, you are also entitled to a refund on that portion of the booking.
Although not part of the original regulation, passengers are entitled to compensation in case of a long delay in some cases. This follows from case law (Sturgeon vs Condor and Böck vs Air France among others). The European Court of Justice has ruled that passengers who have experienced a delay on arrival of 3 hours or more are entitled to the same rights on compensation as in the case of cancellation. Again, this depends on the distance of the flight (Article 7, sub 1):
(a) EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 kilometres or less;
(b) EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres;
(c) EUR 600 for all flights not falling under (a) or (b).
This amount may be decreased with 50% in case the delayed arrival time does not exceed the original arrival time:
(a) by two hours, in respect of all flights of 1500 kilometres or less; or
(b) by three hours, in respect of all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres; or
(c) by four hours, in respect of all flights not falling under (a) or (b)
If compensation is due, this must be paid in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank orders or bank cheques, or (with agreement of the passenger) in travel vouchers and/or other services. You do not have to accept an offer in travel vouchers or Miles.
In short the amount of compensation is:
- €250 for a delay of 3 hours or more for flights under a)
- €400 for a delay of 3 hours or more for flights under b)
- €300 for a delay between 3 and 4 hours for flights under c)
- €600 for a delay of 4 hours or more for flights under c)
No compensation is due for cases not falling under these 4 categories.
The total amount of delay is calculated by comparing the original arrival time and actual arrival time (when at least one aircraft door is opened) at the final destination on your ticket, in case of transfer flights. This also means you are entitled to compensation if you miss a connecting flight due to a delay less than 3 hours and arrive 3 hours or later at your final destination (case law Air France vs Folkerts). In case of connecting flight it does not matter if the delay is more than 3 hours in individual flights or if the delay is on the airport of departure, transfer of arrival; the arrival time at the final destination determines the amount of delay.
As in the case of cancellation, no compensation is due in case of exceptional circumstances. For instance strikes of air traffic control, exceptionally bad weather or terrorism. The right to care and assistance is always applicable, regardless of reason of the delay. Technical failures do not constitue extraordinary circumstances even if the airline performs all required maintenance (case law Wallentin-Hermann vs Alitalia).
Disclaimer: I am not a law practitioner. The above text is informative only and does not provide legal advice. The completeness or accuracy cannot be guaranteed.
Any questions? Post them in the comments!