Know your rights
Learn more about your air passenger rights.

Regulation 261/2004

European commission regulation 261/2004 is a regulation establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding, flight cancellations, or long delays of flights. It repealed Regulation (EEC) No 295/91, and went into effect on 17 February 2005. It sets out the entitlements of air passengers when a flight that they intend to travel on is delayed or cancelled, or when they are denied boarding to such a flight due to overbooking, or when the airline is unable to accommodate them in the class they had booked.

This Regulation is applicable to all worldwide airlines when departure takes place within the EU and in the case of flights from outside the EU to a destination within the EU, only to airlines licensed in a Member State of the EU.

Even though the Regulation prescribes certain rights to passengers in aforementioned cases, airlines openly contest EU legislation and try to refuse the payment of the compensation, mostly relying on the extraordinary circumstances. Extraordinary circumstances are caused by events that the airline can’t control and for which they are not at fault. Since passengers are not familiar with the reasons that qualify as extraordinary circumstances, airlines expand that meaning to avoid paying. In most cases they get away with it because they assume individual passengers will avoid inconveniences of court procedure and the expenses they will have in case of a court procedure.

Canceled flight?

Passengers whose flight was cancelled have several rights prescribed in the Regulation:

  • Right to ‘compensation’
  • Right to choose between reimbursement, re-routing or returning
  • Right to ‘care’, meaning that passengers must be provided with meals and drinks proportionate to the length of waiting and accommodation if overnight stay is required

*With regard to right to compensation it must be noted that airlines do not have to pay if:

  • they can prove that the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstance which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken
  • in a situation when passenger was properly informed about cancellation 14 days or more before the scheduled flight
  • you were offered an alternative for the same route with a similar schedule to the original one.

The compensation depends on the length of the flight:

  • EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 kilometres or less;
  • EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres,and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres
  • EUR 600 for all other flights.

*If the passengers were re-routed, their compensation can be reduced by 50% depending on the delay at final destination.

Delayed flight?

According to the Regulation, passengers whose flight was delayed have;

  • right to ‘care’
  • right to reimbursement and to a return flight

The Regulation does not give passengers a right to compensation in cases of delay, however, the Court has ruled that a delay at arrival of at least three hours (long delay) gives the same rights in terms of compensation as a cancellation. Such a delay does not, however, entitle passengers to compensation if the air carrier can prove that the long delay was caused by extraordinary circumstance which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

The compensation depends on the length of the flight and the length of delay at final destination;

  • EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 kilometres or less;
  • EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres
  • EUR 600 for all other flights.

*When the delay at arrival is less than four hours for a journey of more than 3500 km involving an airport located outside the EU, the compensation can be reduced by 50 % and therefore amounts to EUR 300 in application of Article 7(2) of the Regulation.

Overbooked flight?

Denied boarding does not cover situations where passengers are refused to board because of the reasons such as: health, safety or security or inadequate travel documents. However, the concept of ‘denied boarding’ relates not only to cases of overbooking but also to those where boarding is denied on other grounds,such as operational reasons.

Passengers that are denied boarding against their will, have several rights prescribed in the Regulation

  • Right to ‘compensation’
  • Right to choose between reimbursement, re-routing or rebooking
  • Right to ‘care’, meaning that passengers must be provided with meals and drinks proportionate to the length of waiting, two free telephone calls, telefax or e-mails and accommodation and transport between accommodation and airport if overnight stay is required.

*If passenger agrees to be denied boarding it is not entitled to compensation.

The compensation depends on the length of the flight and the length of delay at final destination;

  • EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 kilometres or less;
  • EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres
  • EUR 600 for all other flights.

Additional expenses?

In cases of flight disruption airlines are obliged to take care of passengers when it comes to meals, refreshment, telecommunication services or in a case of an overnight stay, hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and place of accommodation.

This means that passengers should not be left to make arrangements themselves, e.g. finding and paying for accommodation or food. Instead, operating air carriers are obliged to actively offer care.

If care is nevertheless not offered even though it should have been, passengers who have had to pay for meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation, transport between the airport and place of accommodation and/or telecommunication services can obtain reimbursement of the expenses incurred from the air carrier, provided they were necessary, reasonable and appropriate.

According to the Regulation, it is noted that the air carrier is obliged to fulfil the obligation of care even when the cancellation of a flight is caused by an extraordinary circumstance, that is to say, a circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

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