What rights do passengers have under Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004, (hereafter the Regulation), in the event of cancellation or long delay of a flight?

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  • What rights do passengers have under Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004, (hereafter the Regulation), in the event of cancellation or long delay of a flight?

In case of extended delays (two hours or more, depending on the flight distance), according to Art. 6 of Regulations, passengers are entitled to:

  • meals and drinks, directly proportional with waiting time;
  • two call free phone calls and send free messages through telex, fax or e-mail;
  • if departure time is set for the following day, passengers are also offered hotel accommodation and transport to the place of accommodation and from it to the airport;
  • if the delay is at least of five hours, passengers have the opportunity to choose between reimbursement of full ticket cost and, if applicable, a return flight to the initial point of departure;
  • the air transport operator will pay attention to people with special needs, reduced mobility and their companions, as well as the needs of children without companion.

According to the European Commission’s interpretative guidelines on the Regulation, long delays on arrival, equal to or more than 3 hours, give passengers of a delayed flight the possibility to obtain compensation as passengers whose flight is cancelled.

In case of cancellation of flight, according to Art. 5 of the Regulation, the affected passengers have the following rights:

  • the right to service (meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation, transport between the airport and the place of accommodation, the possibility to make free telephone calls or to send two free messages by telex, fax or e-mail);
  • the right to reimbursement of the cost of the ticket within seven days, a return flight to their original point of departure or re-routing to their final destination;
  • the right to compensation of:
  • EUR 250 for all flights of 1,500 km or less;
  • EUR 400 for all flights within the EU of more than 1,500 km and for all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km;
  • EUR 600 for all flights not covered by the previous points.

Compensation is payable if the passenger has not been informed of the cancellation sufficiently in advance. However, it is not payable if the flight operator can prove that the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

It is the obligation of flight operator to prove that the passenger was indeed informed of the cancellation of the flight, indicating the precise time.

The compensation shall be paid in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank order or bank cheque or, with the written consent of the passenger, in travel vouchers and/or other services.

Among the events which may be considered extraordinary circumstances are the following:

  • air traffic management decisions;
  • adverse weather conditions;
  • political instability;
  • security risks, etc.

Often in practice, the flight operator claims that the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances that could not be avoided, without detailing what these were, reason for which passengers are discouraged from complaining further to the competent bodies. The flight operator must prove the extraordinary circumstances by providing supporting documents (e.g. incident reports, flight logs, etc.).

Who do I contact in case of a delayed or cancelled flight?

  • first of all, the flight operator;
  • then to the competent national authority (ANPC), alternative dispute resolution or online dispute resolution (ADR or SOL), court.

In these circumstances, we believe it is important that passengers know their rights and if their rights have been violated by the flight operator, they should follow the procedure to remedy such situation.