Passenger rights

Regulated for example by Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, passenger’s rights are simply a number of things the passenger is entitled to, depending on the circumstances, meaning: right to care, to compensation for cancelled or delayed flight or for denied boarding, right to reimbursement of full cost of the ticket and a return flight free of charge, right to re-routing, partial reimbursement of cost of the ticket for downgrading, right to information about passenger’s rights themselves and to file a complaint about the air carrier when these rights are infringed.

What is meant by the “right to care”?

Right to care is characterized by one crucial feature, namely the passenger should be cared for by the airline during the time of disruption of the journey. A disruption might mean journey cancellation, substantial delay of a flight or denied boarding usually caused by overbooking.

When it comes to care, airline should offer passengers meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time, two telephone calls, teletype or fax messages, or e-mails, as well as hotel accommodation together with transport between the airport and place of accommodation in case the waiting time for departure amounts to one or more nights.

In case of delayed departure, for passenger to be entitled to the right to care, the delay should amount to:

  • more than 2 hours for flights up to 1,500 km,
  • more than 3 hours for intra-Community flights of more than 1,500 km,
  • more than 3 hours for remaining flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km,
  • more than 4 hours for remaining flights (not intra-Community) of more than 3,500 km.

Right to compensation

Compensation from airlines

Right to reimbursement of the cost of the ticket

Within seven days you are entitled to reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket, that is the price for 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 your original travel plan, if:

  • you were denied boarding, that is you were chosen against your will to forego your journey or you volunteered to surrender your booking,
  • your flight was cancelled,
  • or it was delayed by at least 5 hours.

Instead of reimbursement, in each of these cases you can choose the option of a return flight to the first place of departure at the earliest opportunity. In case of a cancelled flight, denied boarding or surrendered booking, you have an additional option to chose from – you have the right to re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to your final destination at the earliest opportunity or re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to your final destination at a later date at your convenience, subject to availability of seats.

Right to re-routing

Re-routing occurs in case of a cancelled flight when an airline offers an alternative flight to your final destination at the earliest opportunity or at a later date, subject to availability of seats, if the date is convenient for you.

The compensation which you can apply for in such cases may be reduced by 50%. This happens when the airline provides you with an alternative flight and its arrival time does not exceed the arrival time of the originally booked flight by:

  • 2 hours – for flights up to 1,500 km,
  • 3 hours – for flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km,
  • 4 hours – for longer flights.

Right to partial reimbursement of the cost of the ticket for downgrading

In case you were placed in a lower class, the airline should reimburse between 30 and 75% of the cost of your ticket, depending on the distance, hence: 30% of the price of the ticket for flights up to 1,500 km, 50% for intra-Community flights of more than 1,500 km, 50% for remaining flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km and 75% for remaining flights, including flights between the European territory of the Member States and the French overseas departments.

Right to information about passenger’s rights

Air carrier, notwithstanding how the booking was made, is obliged to provide a passenger with a written notice setting out the rights that they are entitled to in case their flight is delayed, cancelled or they were denied boarding.

Right to file a complaint about the carrier

Every passenger has the right to complain about the flight directly to the carrier they were provided their service by. The complaint may be filed to the airline in a number of ways:

  • by registered letter with return receipt sent to the air carrier,
  • electronically, to the airline’s e-mail address, when the airline’s Rules of Procedure provide for such a possibility,
  • through a form that you can find on the carrier’s website,
  • or with our help – with no risk in case of losing the case.

When filing a complaint, amongst others, the following documents that will help you prove to the airline that you were ready for departure are required:

  • booking confirmation,
  • flight ticket,
  • boarding pass.

Such a document should most of all contain information such as the passenger’s details, flight number and scheduled date and departure time of the flight. It is also good to keep, if you received it, a text message or e-mail notice from the carrier informing about the disruption.

Besides the complaint, you can also appeal to an appropriate National Aviation Authority and/or to court. There is no fixed procedure for receiving compensation.

Passenger’s rights institutions

Such institutions include, among others:

  • UK: Passenger Complaints Unit Civil Aviation Authority CAA House 45-59 Kingsway London WC2B 6TE 
  • Ireland: Commission for Aviation Regulation 3rd Floor Alexandra House Earlsfort Terrace IE – DUBLIN 2 

Legal basis

Legal basis is provided e.g. in:

and various other judgments of CJEU and national courts.

APPLICATION OF REGULATION (EC) NO 261/2004 [the Regulation] IN SWITZERLAND

The Regulation on passengers’ rights has been in force in Switzerland since 1 December 2006.

CJEU’S JUDGMENTS CONCERNING THE RIGHTS OF AIR PASSENGERS IN SWITZERLAND

CJEU’s judgments made on the basis of the Regulation are not automatically applied in Switzerland. These judgments become binding in Switzerland only at the moment of official notification. CJEU’s judgments from before 21 June 1999 are an exception, as they are not directly binding in Switzerland.

Switzerland entered into an agreement on air transport with the EU on 21 June 1999, under which it obliged to accept EU aviation law.

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