Delayed flight compensation under EU261

EU261 came into effect in 2005 and outlines compensation due to passengers when they experience denied boarding, cancelled flights, delayed flights or downgrading. The regulation can be confusing enough and a lot of people don’t fully understand it or even know about it. Some people may have only heard of EU261 when Ryanair added a €2 EU261 fee to all bookings in 2009. This post will cover what you are entitled to when your flight is delayed. I will cover the remainder in the coming days.

  1. What are your rights when your flight is delayed
  2. What are your rights when you are denied boarding
  3. What are your rights when your flight is cancelled
  4. What are your rights when you are downgraded
  5. How to claim and overview

Under the flight delayed section there are two rights consumers have – a right to care and a right to compensation. These kick in at varying points in the delay period.

(1) Right to Care

 

Flight Distance Delay Length
< 1,500KM > 2 hours
1,500KM – 3,000KM > 3 hours
> 3,500 KM* > 4 hours

*Excludes Intra-Community (EU) Flights. Intra-Community flights are compensation at the 1,5000KM-3,000KM rate even if longer than 3,000KM

If your flight is delayed by either 2, 3 or 4 hours depending on the length you are entitled to meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time and two telephone calls, telex or fax messages or emails. If the delay necessitates an overnight stay you are entitled to hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and place of accommodation. In practise you are usually offered meal vouchers at the airport. In the case of an overnight stay you can be issued with hotel vouchers at the airport. In some circumstances you will need to pay for the hotel and claim the costs back so be sure to keep receipt. Be reasonable however, don’t go to the nearest Ritz Carlton when there’s a Holiday Inn next door.

If the delay is over 5 hours you are entitled to a reimbursement within 7 days of the full cost of the ticket of the price at which it was bought, for the part or parts of the journey not made, and for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel plan, together with, when relevant, — a return flight to the first point of departure, at the earliest opportunity. This only applies if you choose not to take the flights.


Example 1

Out Bound Dublin -> London
In Bound London -> Dublin

If your flight from Dublin to London was delayed by more than 5 hours, you are entitled to not take the flights and request a full refund for both flights which must be completed within 7 days.

If your flight from London to Dublin was delayed by more than 5 hours, you are entitled to not take the flight and request a refund for the cost of the London to Dublin flight which must be completed within 7 days.


Example 2

Out Bound Dublin -> London -> Bangkok
In Bound  Bangkok -> London -> Dublin

If your flight from London to Bangkok is delayed by 5 hours on the outbound, you are entitled to not take the remaining flights and request a full refund which must be completed within 7 days. You are also entitled to a flight back to Dublin from London at the earliest opportunity.

(2) Right to Compensation

Flight Distance Delay Length Compensation
< 1,500KM > 3 hours €250
1,500KM – 3,000KM > 3 hours €400
> 3,500 KM*

3-4 hours

> 4 hours

€300

€600

*Excludes Intra-Community (EU) Flights. Intra-Community flights are compensation at the 1,5000KM-3,000KM rate even if longer than 3,000KM

The regulation doesn’t actually state that compensation is due in cases of delay however, in 2009 the European Court ruled that airlines must pay compensation for delayed flights. You are entitled to the compensation from the table above depending on the delay length and route distance.


Things to keep in mind

  1. These regulations only apply to flights operated from an airport located in the European Union -or- flights operated by an airline registered in the European Union to an airport location in the European Union.
    • An Aer Lingus Flight from Dublin – New York is covered.
    • An Aer Lingus Flight from New York – Dublin is covered
    • An United Airlines flight from Dublin – Washington is covered
    • An United Airlines flight from Washington – Dublin is not covered.
  2. These regulations do apply even if you use award miles to pay for the ticket.
  3. A delay is based on the arrival time at your final destination.
    • If your Dublin to New York flight leaves 4 hours late but catches up in the air and lands only 2 hours late you are not entitled to compensation.
  4. The distance is calculated using the great circle distance between the origin and the final destination.
    • If you’re flying Dublin – London – Buenos Aires on British Airways and the Dublin – London flight was delayed causing you to mis your connection, as long as you arrive in Buenos Aires more than 4 hours after the scheduled arrival time you are entitled to the €600 compensation for a long haul flight.
  5. If the itinerary involves connections, the tickets must be a thru ticket under one booking to be protected by EU261.
  6. In the case of flights to the EU it is the operating airlines country of registration that defines whether the flight is protected under this regulation or not.
    • It is possible to book an Aer Lingus flight EI8042 from Abu Dhabi to Dublin. This flight is operated by Etihad Airways so it does not fall under these regulations.
    • American Airlines offer flight AA6141 from New York to London. This flight is operated by British Airways so it does fall under these regulations.
  7. These regulations do not apply in case of extraordinary circumstances.
    • Air carriers should compensate passengers …., except when the cancellation occurs in extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. Such circumstances may, in particular, occur in cases of political instability, meteorological conditions incompatible with the operation of the flight concerned, security risks, unexpected flight safety shortcomings and strikes that affect the operation of an operating air carrier. Extraordinary circumstances should be deemed to exist where the impact of an air traffic management decision in relation to a particular aircraft on a particular day gives rise to a long delay, an overnight delay, or the cancellation of one or more flights by that aircraft, even though all reasonable measures had been taken by the air carrier concerned to avoid the delays or cancellations. 
    • There have been court rulings in recents months that have upheld general maintenance is not an extraordinary circumstance. If the fuel pump fails at the gate and needs to be replaced, this is not an extraordinary circumstance. However, if the plane hits some birds and the engines need to be replaced this is an extraordinary circumstance.
  8. I’ve had experience of airlines trying to offer the compensation in the form of travel vouchers. While this is acceptable the passenger must agree to this. The passenger can refuse and is entitled to the compensation in the form of cash, bank transfer, bank order or cheques.

Overall, I think the regulations are a bit too harsh on the airlines. To my knowledge there is no similar regulation for Buses, Ferries or Trains so I am not sure why airlines are picked on. I’ve had a flight from London to Dublin delayed before. I paid €9.99 for the flight and was entitled to €250 compensation for a 3 hour delay. Yet, if the flight was delayed by another day the compensation doesn’t increase. It seems a bit bizarre.

2 comments

  1. There are rules for trains and Buses (while not as generous this flights), you can see details here:

    http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/passenger-rights/index_en.htm

    Now the National Transport Authority has decided to exempt some services from this rule (like Dublin Bus), the minimum distance required is 250km and/or the travel time 3 hours.

    You can see details here:
    https://www.nationaltransport.ie/public-transport-services/coach-and-bus-passenger-rights/

    For train, the National Transport Authority has decided to exclude domestic railway travel from the EU rules (which they can), but there are rights for the Belfast route.

    More details here:
    https://www.nationaltransport.ie/public-transport-services/passenger-rights/

    The EU has a nice App that outlines your rights:

    Android:
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mobility.dg.android

    Apple:
    https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/your-passenger-rights-for/id535428814

    Windows:
    http://www.windowsphone.com/en-gb/store/app/your-rights/958414f1-928f-43b3-9a96-05c9108d7d7d

    Keep up your excellent blog, I’m enjoying it.

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