Passengers rights – denied boarding

What rights does a passenger have in case of denied boarding?

Denied boarding sounds serious. However, it does not mean that your journey is ruined. Not every passenger knows that in such a situation they might be entitled to, among others, compensation – even up to €600.

Do you know your rights?

What exactly is denied boarding?

Denied boarding, for which you can receive compensation, is denying the carriage of the passenger, even though they were present at the boarding. It is usually related to an excessive number of passengers (overbooking). It means that more tickets were sold compared to the number of seats in the plane; however, airlines rarely admit to such practice.

In what circumstances are you entitled to compensation for denied boarding?

First and foremost, the basis of receiving compensation for denied boarding is being present for boarding on time according to the requirements (e.g. you need to have the flight booked and be present for check-in) and having all the documents required for your journey. You are entitled to compensation if the airline chooses you, against your will, as the passenger who will not attend the flight. In such a situation, on no account should you agree voluntarily or give up on your flight! This will disqualify you from applying for the compensation you are entitled to.

You have no right to apply for compensation if denied boarding is reasonably justified, especially due to health or security reasons or if you travel documents are invalid.

The amount of compensation depends on the distance of the scheduled flight.

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.

How do you get compensation for denied boarding?

Compensation claim for denied boarding 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 to file a complaint?

It can be filed in a number of ways:

  1. by registered letter with return receipt sent to the air carrier,
  2. electronically, to the airline’s e-mail address,
  3. through a form that you can find on the carrier’s website
  4. 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 denied boarding 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.

When should you file the complaint?

It is best to file the complaint as soon as possible since limitation periods for compensation claims for denied boarding 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 present at the airport, that you had the right to and was 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.

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 have when they were denied boarding?

When you are denied boarding you have the right to:

  • meal and refreshment. 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 denied boarding period.
  • accommodation – if the alternative flight which the airline should provide you with 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.

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 denied boarding and which are mentioned in Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, 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 – payout of compensation can be withheld for example when the passenger violates any of the Carrier’s Rules and Regulations and constitutes a security risk, for instance is intoxicated or tries to carry prohibited or dangerous items on board. In such cases the passenger is not entitled to compensation.

Denied boarding for connecting flights – are you entitled to compensation?

In the event that the passenger misses a flight due to denied boarding of the first or second flight made within the same booking, 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 have when they were denied boarding?”.

Can you apply for compensation by yourself?

Of course, you can apply for the compensation for denied boarding by yourself. However, we would like to note that the airline might offer you a friendly settlement for the problems that arose during the journey. If you accept such a 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.

Also, do not agree to reducing the amount of compensation!

Important!

Adequate care provided to you by the airline during the flight disruption does not exclude your right to compensation.

Compensation for denied boarding – 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, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91.

It might be complemented by various judgments of CJEU and national courts.

Other flights – what can you do?

First of all, keep your travel documents and try to get information on the reason of denied boarding. You also have the right to demand being provided with meals, refreshments and accommodation if your alternative 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.

We do not recommend accepting settlements since according to the law everyone should receive the full amount of compensation for the disruption.

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