Regulation 261: get to know your air passenger rights

regulation 261: prava putnika u zračnom prometu

If you’re still not up to date with air passenger rights, it’s time we change that. Why? Because canceled and delayed flights, or even denied boarding, are just not that pleasant! On the other hand, compensation of up to 600 EUR, refund, rerouting to the soonest alternative flight, drinks and hotel accommodation while waiting, definitely are! Anyways, passengers are guaranteed these benefits by the Regulation 261/2004, and when you are not sure if you’re entitled to them – check for free whether your flight meets the basic conditions for their realization.

Regulation 261

The number of passengers in air transport is growing annualy, while back in 2014 as many as 879 million passengers passed through the EU. However, it is this increase in traffic that has led to more and more problems with flights: cancellations, delays and denial of boarding.

The regulation of the European Commission and the Parliament, Regulation 261/2004, was created precisely in response to these problems. It imposes significant obligations on airlines when they violate the air passenger rights and thus cause them serious inconveniences. Its purpose – no less and no more than consumer protection.

It’s true though, airlines generally want to avoid delays and cancellations as much as passengers, but this is often not possible. The reasons are numerous, from those under the airlines’ control, to those they cannot influence in any way.

However, regardless of the actual cause of disruption of the original travel plans, airlines often find excuses in extraordinary circumstances, whether it is true or not. Thus, over time, a large number of passengers, and mostly those who do not know their rights, are often left stranded. But don’t despair, that’s why Claimdon is here – to introduce you to your rights and help you realize them. That beng said, feel free to file a complaint and our team of experts will negotiate with the airline on your behaf.

Contact Claimdon for information about air passenger rights

Now, as we know how deeds speak louder than words, we have translated the complicated text of the Regulation 261 into the “language of a traveler” and in the lines bellow we answer the following questions:

A) When does Regulation 261/2004 apply?
B) What are the rights of air passengers?
C) What are the conditions for exercising the rights of passengers in individual cases?

A) When does Regulation 261/2004 apply?

First of all, the Regulation provides protection to passengers when their flight is canceled, when they are late for their destination and when they are denied boarding.

Nevertheless, you must know that the rules of this Regulation do not apply to all flights in the world. As it is a regulation of the European Commission and the Parliament, its primary purpose is the uniform protection of passengers within the European Union. However, there are still situations when the Regulation will protect the interests of passengers outside these areas. Not to complicate matters further, the Regulation applies to:

  • Flights departing from the EU (regardless of the “origin” of the carrier and the destination of the final destination),
  • Flights departing from third countries and arriving in the EU (provided that the carrier is registered within the EU).

To complicate matters even less, if you flew from:

  • Zagreb to Frankfurt – Regulation applies;
  • Zagreb to New York – Regulation applies;
  • New York to Zagreb by American Airlines – Regulation does not apply;
  • New York to Zagreb by Lufthansa – Regulation applies.

So to establish what we’ve learned so far, the Regulation 261/2004 was adopted to enable the protection and enforcement of air passenger rights in 3 specific situations. These are canceled flight, flight delay and denied boarding. In order for a passenger to be able to exercise his rights – in all three cases the responsibility must be on the airline. Therefore, the passenger will not be able to exercise his rights if, for example, it is his fault that he was late for boarding and therefore missed the flight.

Finally, the Regulation applies to flights that are part of a single reservation. This means that the passenger will not be able to claim his rights if he missed the second flight due to the delay of the first one, if each of them was booked separately. Also, although the Regulation does not prescribe a limitation period, in most European countries passengers can claim rights for flights up to 3 years old.

B) What are the rights of air passengers?

Compensation – up to 600 EUR

Of all the rights that the Regulation 261/2004 provides for passengers, this is certainly the most interesting one. Fixed monetary compensation is provided as compensation to passengers for lost time. So, regardless of the price of the ticket or other expenses you have incurred, monetary compensation is there to provide you with some satisfaction due to the caused inconvenience. While the compensation amounts are fixed, the one you will be entitled to will depend on the length of the flight:

  • 250 EUR for flights up to 1,500 km
  • 400 EUR for flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km
  • 600 EUR for flights longer than 3,500 km

If you are not sure which of these categories your flight falls into, you can check this by filling out a questionnaire on our website. You only need to enter a few basic details of your flight to find out if you are entitled to compensation. After that, we will gladly take over your case and fight the airline for your rights.

Of course, whether you will be entitled to compensation in a particular case will depend on the cause of the flight disruption. In other words, the outcome depends on whether it was the fault of the airline or caused by extraordinary circumstances beyond the carrier’s control (more below).

Refund or rerouting

In accordance with the Regulation, the airline is obliged to allow you a choice between a refund of the ticket price and a diversion to a new flight. All this is due when your flight is:

  • canceled,
  • excessively late in departure,
  • is late for departure in such a way that you will miss the connected flight,
  • if you have been denied boarding for no good reason.

This right of air passengers is separate from the right to fixed compensation. Its purpose is to provide the passenger with appropriate assistance at the time when the problem is occurring. Since this right is primarily used in real time it is very important to know that, for example, in the event of a canceled flight, it’s not where the movie ends – you can still insist that the carrier organizes a new flight at no extra cost. When this is not a possibility, then there is a right to a refund of the ticket price (as well as a return flight to the first point of departure if the problem occurred on a subsequent flight).

Also, if the airline does not offer you this choice, you can request a refund of the costs incurred later on, given that you’ve saved the receipts (flight reservations, boarding passes, etc.).

If you have encountered problems like this then we remind you that the best thing you can do is fill out a complaint. We will then contact you back and request additional documentation in order to compile your request to the airline in the best possible way.

3) Right to care: meals, drinks, accommodation and transport between the accommodation place and the airport

As the very name of this right – “right to care” – says, it is the care that the airline is obliged to provide to the passenger while waiting for the disrupted or alternative flight to take off.

This includes meals, drinks, phone calls or emails, and in the event that, due to waiting for an alternative flight an overnight stay is required – hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the hotel.

Therefore, do not hesitate to press the carrier on the spot. And if they refuse to help you and you are forced to bear these costs on your own, you can request for a refund later. All that matters is that you save the bills.

C) What are the conditions for exercising the rights of passengers in individual cases?

As we have stated in several places in this blog, Regulation 261/2004 applies to 3 specific flight problems, namely: canceled flight, flight delay and denied boarding. Bellow we will explain some of the conditions for each individual problem that must be met in order for the passenger to be able to exercise his rights, and above all the right to compensation.

1) Canceled flight

First of all, the right to compensation in the event of a canceled flight primarily depends on when the airline informed you about the cancellation.

If you received information about a canceled flight more than 2 weeks before the scheduled departure of the flight, you will not be entitled to compensation. The airline is then released from liability. Why? Mostly because it is considered here that you have been notified of the cancellation well in advance to adjust to the situation. (*** refund or rerouting).

If you are notified of the cancellation less than 2 weeks in advance, then the airline, if it wants to avoid the obligation to pay compensation, must allow you to depart and arrive at the destination according to the prescribed deadlines.

In addition, in order to be eligible for compensation, the cancellation must be the airline’s fault. In other words, if the flight is canceled due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the carrier’s control (eg. adverse weather conditions, flight control restriction, aircraft collision with a bird, drone activity over the airport, etc.), then the airline will be released from liability to pay the compensation.

Finally, in the event of a canceled flight due to extraordinary circumstances, all other rights of air passengers (the right to choose between a refund of the ticket price and an alternative flight / right to care) will not be called into question. The passenger is entitled to them regardless of the cause of the cancellation.

Regulation 261, delayed flight

2) Flight Delay

The right to compensation in case of flight delay exists if you arrived at the final destination with a delay of more than 3 hours. So, it doesn’t matter how late your flight was in departure, but how late you arrived at your final destination. Therefore, if your flight from A to B is 4 hours late in departure and you arrive at your destination 2 hours and 30 minutes after your scheduled arrival, you will not be entitled to compensation.

On the other hand, imagine that you had connected flights from A via B to C. Then, if your first flight (A) was 15 minutes late for departure, but you missed the connected flight (B) to the final destination (C) and there you finally arrive with more than 3 hours delay, then you are entitled to compensation.

In relation to the very cause of the flight delay, the same rules apply here as for a canceled flight. Thus, if the airline can prove that the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances which they could not have prevented, they will be released from the obligation to pay compensation.

Also, as with a canceled flight, extraordinary circumstances will not affect the possibility of exercising other air passenger rights.

3) Denied Boarding

Denied boarding is a specific flight disruption problem and here slightly different rules apply. First of all, denial of boarding may be due to:

  • Overbooking (when the airline sells more tickets than there are seats on the plane, expecting that not all passengers will show up on the flight);
  • Operational problems (e.g. even though you have regularly purchased your ticket, staff cannot find you in the system);
  • Safety and health reasons (eg you do not have the appropriate travel documents).

All you need to know is that you are entitled to compensation in the event of denied boarding if two conditions are met.

  1. If this did not happen for justified reasons (last point above),
  2. If you did not voluntarily give up your seat in exchange for certain benefits.

Also, if you are denied boarding in this way, the airline is obliged to offer you a choice between a refund and rerouting. In addition, if necessary, you have the right to care in the manner described above.

Claimdon – Your best friend in case of flight disruption!

Finally, we want to dedicate a few words to Claimdon and our own claim specialists.

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A large number of passengers still don’t know their rights. This fact in no way contributes to solving the growing number of flight problems. And not only that, but also when those passengers who know their rights decide to communicate directly with the airlines in order to exercise their rights – they often come across a closed door.

That’s why Claimdon is here – for those passengers who want to claim their rights but do not have the knowledge, will and / or time to engage in this often painfull procedure. Therefore, our claim team serves as a tool for passengers to obtain compensation and / or refund in the simplest possible way, without even exposing themselves to financial risk. In translation, the service is charged from the amount paid by the airline and only when Claimdon succeeds with the claim, otherwise there are no costs for the user.

In addition, by choosing Claimdon, you are directly supporting the model of socially responsible entrepreneurship incorporated into our business mission. Namely, for each successful claim, Claimdon sets aside a portion of each commissions and donates it to one of the 4 global humanitarian organizations at the passenger’s choice.

So feel free to contact us with confidence or just keep up to date with our latest lessons in air passenger rights. 🙂

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In case of a delayed, cancelled or overbooked flight you can receive up to 600€ compensation.