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UK European Consumer Centre

Air travel

Cancelled flight? Long flight delay? Denied boarding?

Thanks to EU air passenger rights, you may be entitled to reimbursement, rerouting, compensation and more.

EC Regulation 261/2004 - The Air Passenger Rights Regulations

This regulation protects passengers when their flight is cancelled or delayed and in the event they are denied boarding.  In these situations the regulation specifies the amount of compensation that is to be received by the passengers.

You will have rights under EC Regulation 261/2004 if your flight:

  • Departs from an EU country* OR
  • Arrives in an EU country* on an EU based carrier.    

* this also includes Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Flight Cancellations 

If your flight is cancelled you are entitled to the following;

Refund or re-routing and assistance at the airport

You will be given a choice between a refund of the ticket or of re-routing to your final destination. The airline should re-route you to your final destination at your earliest available opportunity.  This can be with a different air carrier.

If you accept to receive a refund of the price you paid for the ticket then you will not be entitled to any further assistance with re-routing or assistance. 

Flight Delays

If your flight has been delayed the airline may be obliged to provide assistance under EC Regulation 261/2004.  The length of delay and the distance of the flight will reflect the level of assistance provided.

If you decide not to travel you are entitled to a refund, within seven days, of the parts of the tickets not used. If it is a connecting flight and you have already made part of the journey and do not want to continue with it, reimbursement of the total price of the ticket (including parts of the journey not made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to your original travel plan) within seven days and a free flight back to point of departure.

Assistance at the airport 

If you are waiting for your re-routed flight you are entitled to free meals and refreshments as well as two free phone calls/emails/faxes.

In the event of re-routing when the flight is the next day, free overnight accommodation with a transfer to and from that accommodation to the airport should be provided.  

If the airline fail to provide this assistance you may need to pay and make a claim afterwards.  It is very important that you keep your receipts for the expenditure. 

Compensation 

If due to the flight cancellation there is a delay in getting to your destination , compensation is owed at the following levels:

 Length of journeyDelay to Destination
Compensation
 up to1500km up to 2 hours  €125
 up to 1500km
 more than 2 hours
 €250
 1500km to 3500km
 up to 3 hours
 €200

 1500km to 3500km

 more than 3 hours
 €400
 more than 3500km
 up to 4 hours  €300
 more than 3500km
 more than 4 hours
 €600

 

The airline is not obliged to pay compensation if it can prove that the cancellation was caused by "extraordinary circumstances", which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken".

Such extraordinary circumstances might 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".

It is no longer acceptable for airlines to blame technical defects on extraordinary circumstances. 

Denied Boarding

An airline may refuse to allow you to board for various reasons.  One of the major reasons is that they have overbooked your flight.  Overbooking is a common industry practice and airlines do this as they rely on some passengers not showing up. When an airline overbooks, they initially ask for volunteers to not fly but will sometimes 'bump' people off a flight. If you are 'bumped' off a flight, you will be entitled to compensation and refund of the flight ticket/re-routing to your destination and assistance.

To be entitled to compensation three conditions need to be satisfied:

  • You must have a valid ticket;
  • You must have a confirmed reservation;
  • You must have checked-in by the deadline given to you by the airline.  

Rights for Passengers with Reduced Mobility

Under Regulation 1107/2006, if you are disabled or have difficulty moving around, you will have rights to assistance when you fly to, from and within Europe.

You do not need to be permanently or physically disabled to benefit from these rights. In fact, anyone who has difficulty moving around, for example, because of their disability or age, can receive help when they fly.

Key facts

The law affects the whole of the air travel process, not just the flight itself. It also covers booking your flights, arriving at the airport, checking in, getting on and off the plane and leaving the airport.

The Regulation applies to tour operators and travel agents as well as to airports and airlines. This means that tour operators and travel agents must pass on your needs to the airlines, and they in turn must inform the airports of the individual services required.

If you have a complaint or in need for further advice we would suggest contacting the Civil Aviation Authority. 

The Civil Aviation Authority are responsible for dealing with complaints about UK airlines and airports in England, Scotland and Wales – in relation to the above-mentioned legislation - and can advise you of your rights and what further action you can take.

They will provide advice and example letters to send to the appropriate body - be that the travel agent, the airline, the airport or another organisation.

If you are not satisfied with the response, they can take the matter up further by liaising with colleagues in the Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority and other European Union nations to improve services to disabled and less mobile passengers.