In previous blog posts, I wrote a lot about the European Union’s legislation and its application in various flight irregularities. However, it’s important to realize that these rules have significant impact on the U.S. air travelers too. This post will lay down all situations which U.S. passengers should pay attention to in connection with the European Union’s Regulation (EC) No 261/2004. Moreover, I’m going to reveal secrets that airlines struggle to hide from you… psst, it’s a secret!
The Regulation provides a strict guidelines for compensations in case of flight delays, flight cancellations and denied boardings. Of course, its main purpose is to cover European Union’s sky so every EU outbound flight is taken into account. However, for the U.S. air travelers is important to know that the Regulation covers also all EU inbound flights if the operating air carrier of the flight concerned is based within the European Union – e.g. flight from New York City to London with British Airways is the flight on which rules of the Regulation apply.
Once the airline cancels your flight it’s important to determine the date when the airline informed you about the cancellation. If the date is:
- between 7 – 14 days before the scheduled time of departure and the airline doesn’t offer you an alternate flight that allows you to depart no more than 2 hours before the scheduled time of departure and to reach your final destination less than 4 hours after the scheduled time of arrival, or
- less than 7 days before the scheduled time of departure and the airline doesn’t offer you an alternate flight that allows you to depart no more than 1 hour before the scheduled time of departure and to reach your final destination less than 2 hours after the scheduled time of arrival
you are entitled to receive a financial compensation amounting to $825 (for all flights with a distance longer than 2,175 miles which includes all transatlantic flights). Sounds good right?
Well, there is a situation when airlines aren’t obliged to pay you such financial compensation. I mean a situation which is expertly called extraordinary circumstance. You will probably hear this term quite often from airlines as they usually try to hide behind it not to pay you anything. It covers bad weather conditions, strikes, political instability, security and safety issues etc.
SECRET NO. 1
The term of extraordinary circumstance doesn’t cover technical issues which is the most frequent reason of a flight irregularity claimed by airlines.
In addition to the financial compensation, you have in every case right to reimbursement or re-routing (just one of these options, it’s up to your decision) together with appropriate care in form of meals, refreshments and if one or more nights becomes necessary, in form of hotel accommodation with respective transportation to and from the hotel.
SECRET NO. 2
The reimbursement must cover full cost of the ticket at the price at which it was bought, for a part of the journey not made, and for a part of the journey already made, if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to your original travel plan.
When your flight is delayed, a decisive factor is the length of the delay. In this post, I always consider transatlantic flight which is always longer than 2,175 miles to simplify the situation. Accordingly, when the delay on the departure is shorter than 4 hours, nobody will care of you – you must simply put up with it and consider any support from the airline as a gesture of goodwill and as a proof of very good customer service.
The departure delay longer than 4 hours triggers the airline’s obligation to take care of you. You must be offered meals, refreshments and if one or more nights becomes necessary, you must be offered hotel accommodation with respective transportation to and from the hotel free of charge too.
Once the departure delay exceeds 5 hours, you must be offered the choice between the reimbursement and re-routing as described above under the flight cancellation paragraph.
SECRET NO. 3
The reimbursement must be made within 7 days and paid in form of cash, electronic bank transfer, bank order, bank check or, with signed agreement between you and the airline, in travel vouchers or other services.
There is one special issue with the flight delay scenario. The Regulation doesn’t contain any provision which entitles you to obtain any financial compensation. Fortunately for you, there was a case between Air France and Mr. and Mrs. Folkerts in 2013 in which the Court of Justice of the European Union decided that passengers whose flight arrives at the final destination at least 3 hours late are entitled to financial compensation in a same manner as passengers whose flight was cancelled.
SECRET NO. 4
In other and more simple words, you are entitled to get $825 if your flight is delayed for more than 3 hours on arrival.
The situation of denied boarding was clarified in our last blog post – Make a profit on denied boarding.
Therefore, here is just a brief recap:
When the airline expects denied boarding on its overbooked flight, the airline staff must first call for volunteers that would surrender their reservation in exchange for benefits individually agreed between the volunteer and the airline. In addition to that, volunteers must be also offered the choice between reimbursement and re-routing as described above.
If an insufficient number of volunteers comes forward to allow the remaining passengers with reservations to board the flight, the airline may deny boarding to you against your will. In this case,you are entitled to be offered the reimbursement or rerouting option together with financial compensation amounting to $825 (again, I consider transatlantic flight which is always longer than 2,175 miles).
Moreover, depending on your alternate re-routed flight, you must be offered meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time and if the stay of one or more nights becomes necessary, you must be offered hotel accommodation with respective transportation to and from the hotel – everything completely free of charge!
If you accept the option of flight re-routing, the amount of the financial compensation can be reduced by 50% in case when the arrival time doesn’t exceed the scheduled arrival time of the flight originally booked by 4 hours.
Still not getting enough?
In addition to these rules, denied boarding is regulated also by the U.S. legislation – 14 CFR Part 250 – OVERSALES. If you want you can check it on your own right now but be sure that a special post that explains it in detail will follow soon.
The U.S. legislation is already implemented in our web app so you can freely check your rights now and if you are entitled to compensation, we will pursuit your claims on your behalf for success-based fee.
Lastly, I wanted to ask you again for your valuable feedback. I would really appreciate any comment on this post, your experience with our web app that interactively helps you to solve all above mentioned situations.
Did you know that you can claim your compensations for all flights that you have made up to 2 years back (6 years back in the United Kingdom)?