What rights does a passenger have in case of a cancelled flight?
A cancelled flight can cause a passenger a lot of troubles – missing an important appointment, family ceremony or forcing to shorten the time of their holiday. However, not everyone knows that they might be entitled to, among others, compensation for a cancelled flight – even up to €600.
Do you know your rights?
In what circumstances are you entitled to compensation for a cancelled flight?
You can get compensation for a flight cancelled due to the air carrier’s fault if the cancellation was announced:
- from 13 to 7 days before the scheduled date, if the airline offered alternative transport departing more than 2 hours before the scheduled departure time and/or arriving at the final destination more than 4 hours after the scheduled arrival time,
- less than 7 days before the scheduled date (including when you are already at the airport), if the airline offered alternative transport departing more than one hour before the scheduled departure time and/or arriving at the final destination more than 2 hours after the scheduled arrival time.
You are not entitled to compensation if the carrier informs you about the cancelled flight at least two weeks before the scheduled flight.
Moreover, airlines are not always responsible for the cause of the cancellation. Under the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, in cases of extraordinary circumstances the carrier’s liability is excluded.
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What determines the amount of compensation?
The maximum amount of compensation for a delayed flight amounts to €600.
However, please keep in mind that if your disrupted flight is qualified for compensation, its amount depends on:
- the distance:
|250 €||for flights up to 1,500 km,|
|400 €||for all flights over 1,500 km within the European Union and for the remaining flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km,|
|600 €||for all remaining flights over 3,500 km.|
Please also pay attention to what airline was operating the flight and in what area:
- Flight route outside the EU: Airline registered in the EU and Airline not registered in the EU – not entitled to compensation
- Flight route with the departure from the country outside the EU territory and arrival in a country within the EU territory: Airline registered in the EU – entitled to compensation, and Airline not registered in the EU – not entitled to compensation
- Flight route with the departure from the country within the EU and arrival in a country outside the EU territory: Airline registered in the EU and Airline not registered in the EU – entitled to compensation
- Flight route within the territory of the EU: Airline registered in the EU and Airline not registered in the EU – entitled to compensation
The same rules also apply to Norway, Switzerland and Iceland, and to flights departing from territories administratively dependent on one of EU countries, i.e.: Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion, Mayotte, Saint Martin, the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands, or if flights to these places were operated by an EU carrier. The following are not Member States of the EU: Faroe Islands, Isle of Man and Channel Islands.
Also pay attention to the moment when you were informed that the flight was cancelled: you are entitled to compensation only when the carrier informs you about the cancellation of flight less than two weeks before the scheduled departure date.
How do you get compensation for a cancelled flight?
Compensation claim for a cancelled flight should be submitted to the airline (in written form, by e-mail or through the form on the carrier’s website) or through a company which specializes in obtaining such compensation.
How should you file the complaint?
It can be filed in a number of ways:
- by registered letter with return receipt sent to the air carrier,
- electronically, to the airline’s e-mail address,
- 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.
We would like to note that filing a complaint not always will necessarily guarantee payout of compensation. To avoid liability, carriers can try to use extraordinary circumstances as an excuse. They can also offer understated compensation, even though everyone has the right to full compensation in the amount they are entitled to, depending on the flight distance.
What should you do when the airline does not admit your complaint?
When the airline rejects the complaint or admits it only partially, the next step is to file a complaint to a competent National Aviation Authority for the departure place of your flight. Proceedings before this body may take up to 6 months.
Eventually, you can also appeal to the court. In this case, average waiting time for the decision on flight disruption might even take up to 1 year. It entails additional costs and the proceedings will take a lot of your time.
If you file your claim with us, you don’t have to worry about anything. When acting on behalf of our customers we complete all the formalities and always seek successful enforcement of full compensation.
The procedure and form of compensation payout
Receiving compensation for a cancelled flight might involve not only filing the complaint to the airline but also appealing to the National Aviation Authority and then to the court (you can also appeal directly to the court, without appealing to the NAA),which is more time-consuming and entails additional costs. It means that there is no single, fixed procedure for receiving compensation. There are a few ways and each of them depends on various factors.
The carrier should pay compensation in cash. The carrier can also offer another form of compensation, such as a travel voucher; however, to receive this kind of compensation, you have to give written consent to it, which disqualifies you from applying for compensation under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004.
Compensation can also be decreased by 50%. This happens when the airline offers you 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.|
If you do not want to apply for compensation all by yourself, remember that our experts know exactly how to deal with every carrier and what actions should be taken in each case.
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When should you file the complaint?
It is best to file the complaint as soon as possible since limitation periods for compensation claims for a cancelled flight vary depending on which country the carrier is registered in, and they might amount to as little as one year, e.g. in case of airlines registered in Poland, such as PLL LOT.
Documents required for filing the complaint
When you file your complaint, in order to be able to prove that you were ready for the flight, you should keep at least one of the following travel documents that has to include information such as the passenger’s details, flight number, date of flight and time of the scheduled departure, the documents being:
- booking confirmation,
- flight ticket
- boarding pass.
It is also good to keep the notice about the cancelled flight – text message, e-mail, if that’s how the airline informed you about the disruption, or a picture of the departure board.
How long do you have to wait for compensation?
Time of receiving compensation depends on how fast the carrier processes the complaint; therefore, it cannot be determined exactly. Usually it takes around 30 days. However, based on our experience, the probability of a successfully processed complaint and payout of compensation at the stage of filing the complaint to the airline is not high and usually appeal measures are necessary.
What other rights does a passenger of the cancelled flight have?
When your flight is cancelled you have the right to:
- accommodation – if the alternative flight is scheduled for the next day or later. If accommodation is not provided, you have the right to pay for it yourself within a reasonable price range. Document required when the airline did not provide accommodation and you paid for it yourself: proof of payment for the hotel, containing dates corresponding to the period between the originally scheduled departure time and the actual departure time,
- transport from the airport to the place of accommodation and from the place of accommodation to the airport. If transport is not provided, you have the right to pay for it yourself (e.g. taxi, bus, train). Document required when the airline did not provide transport and you paid for it yourself: receipt for using services such as taxi, train, etc.
- meal and refreshment – if your alternative flight is scheduled at least 2 hours later than the originally scheduled departure time. If the airline did not provide adequate meals and refreshments, you can buy them at your own expense and apply for reimbursement. Documents required when the airline did not provide meals and you bought them yourself: proof of payment for meals and refreshments, containing dates corresponding to the waiting period.
You can also choose one of the following options:
- ticket price reimbursement for the cancelled flight (or, in case of a connecting flight, partial reimbursement for the segment of the journey already completed and for the segment which was not completed due to the cancellation if resuming the journey would not serve any purpose any more. In case of connecting flights you have the additional right to a return flight to the original place of departure,
- being provided with an alternative flight at the earliest opportunity
- right to change the route and go back to the place of departure – if it was a connecting flight that was cancelled.
If the airline did not provide you with care, alternative flight or return flight, or if you did not make use of it, you can apply for reimbursement of the ticket price.
Recovery of reasonable costs
The term “reasonable costs” indicates that every passenger is fully entitled to reimbursement of the costs they had to cover because of the cancellation and which were mentioned above, i.e.:
- the right to reimbursement of the costs covered by you for the original ticket you bought,
- the right to reimbursement of the costs covered by you for accommodation, transport from the airport to the hotel and the other way round, meals and refreshments.
Are there any exceptions that can result in the carrier withholding payout of compensation?
Yes, there are – the extraordinary circumstances described in Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 constitute such exceptions.
Extraordinary circumstances – what does it mean exactly?
The European Commission’s website provides you with an example list of extraordinary circumstances which exclude the carrier’s liability to compensation payout, such circumstances being for instance:
- bad weather conditions,
- political instability in the country where the flight takes place,
- security risks,
- strikes of air traffic controllers.
The list was created jointly by executive bodies of the Member States which are responsible for the implementation of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights.
Connecting flights cancellation – are you entitled to compensation?
In the event when the passenger misses the flight or the second booked flight is cancelled, the same rights apply as those mentioned above. The airline should provide an alternative flight and adequate care. You can read more about it in section “What other rights does a passenger of a cancelled flight have?”.
Compensation in case of a technical defect in the plane
If your flight is cancelled due to a technical defect in the plane, you have the full right to apply for compensation. Technical defects are not included in the term “extraordinary circumstances” unless the defect is a consequence of events not attributable to the airline, such as a bird strike or defects resulting from actions of another passenger.
Charter flight cancellation and compensation
Booking a trip including flights in a travel agency does not exclude your rights to apply for compensation if your flight was cancelled because of the airline’s fault. You also have to remember that it is the carrier’s and not travel agency’s obligation to inform you about the cancellation. Moreover, even if the rest of your trip progresses or progressed very well, do not give up on filing the complaint to the airline.
Can you apply for compensation by yourself?
Of course, you can apply for the compensation for flight disruption by yourself. However, we would like to note that the airline might offer you a friendly settlement for the problems that arose during your journey. If you accept such a form of settlement (in a written form), you will no longer be able to apply for compensation.
To be sure that you will not lose your right to apply for compensation, do not accept from the carrier things like:
- flight vouchers,
- bonus points.
Do not agree to reducing the amount of compensation!
Adequate care provided to you by the airline during the flight disruption does not exclude your right to compensation.
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Compensation for a cancelled flight – legal basis
The main legal basis is Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights.
It is complemented by various judgments, e.g.:
Judgment of the Court (Third Chamber) of 13 October 2011, Reference for a preliminary ruling – Air transport – Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 – Article 2(l) – Compensation for passengers in the event of cancellation of a flight – Meaning of ‘cancellation’ – Article 12 – Meaning of ‘further compensation’ – Compensation under national law
Judgment of the Court (Third Chamber) of 17 April 2018, References for a preliminary ruling – Transport – Common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights – Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 – Article 5(3) – Article 7(1) – Right to compensation – Exemption – ‘Extraordinary circumstances’ – ‘Wildcat strike’
Other flights – what can you do?
First of all, keep your travel documents and try to get information on the reason of the flight cancellation. You also have the right to demand being provided with meals, refreshments and accommodation, if your next flight is scheduled for the next day or later, as well as transport from and to the airport in the event you get accommodation. If you covered all the costs yourself, keep the receipts or invoices so that the carrier could reimburse you.