Flight delays, cancellations and denied boarding when travelling to/from Europe

  • Home
  • Flight delays, cancellations and denied boarding when travelling to/from Europe

You might be able to claim between 250–600€ according to EU 261/2004!

Flight Delay.
Flight Cancelation.
Denied Boarding.
Missed Connection.

01. If you travelled on a European flight to or from Asia, which was cancelled or delayed then you may have the right to compensation under European law. This applies even if you reside in Asia. Regulation EU 261 covers European airspace, so you don’t have to be an EU citizen to make a claim. The regulation says that affected passengers can claim up to 600 Euros in compensation from an airline when a flight lands at the destination more than three hours late. With a cancelled flight, you have the right to take an alternative flight with the same airline to your destination, or cancel the flight and receive a full refund. Airlines don’t always pay out however, and may try to avoid doing so if the delay is caused by an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ such as bad weather or crew strikes – see below.

02. Previously, airlines refused to pay out for delays caused by technical faults, claiming they counted as extraordinary events. But in 2014 two English Court rulings declared that airlines should pay out when a delay was caused by a technical fault.

03. How much you are entitled for a delay or cancellation depends on the flight that you booked and the amount of time you were delayed. The flight must have departed from an EU airport and can be operated by any airline (so this includes all European, Asian and Gulf carriers), or it must have arrived into an EU airport and have been operated by an EU airline. The ‘EU airport’ definition also includes any airport in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

01. Airlines have a duty to look after stranded passengers, even if cancellations are because of extraordinary circumstances beyond their control. So,keep a record of what you have spent, including receipts and try to reclaim from airline using the EU 261 rule. Airlines should compensate passengers if their flight is cancelled or badly delayed. They should also offer you meals, refreshments and hotel accommodation whilst you wait for a rearranged flight.

02. Passengers will need to confirm the airline and flight number, the names of other passengers if travelling as a group, and the reason given by the airline for the delay. At least four hours delay on a journey of more than 3,500km (this covers flights to and from Asia) between an EU and non-EU airport (in Asia) gives an award of 600 Euros. It is a good idea to keep hold of your boarding cards as proof of travel.

03. If a flight is cancelled you should be offered an alternative flight with the same airline to your destination either on the day or the following day if there is space, or a full refund for the flight. If this is not possible then you should be given the option of a flight with a different airline, if there’s room. If you end up paying for this on top of the cost of the original ticket you should be able to claim any extra money back – if you can prove no other suitable option was given by the original airline. If you were given more than 14 days’ notice about the cancellation, you will only be entitled to a new flight or a refund for your original flight. But if you were given 14 or less days’ notice, you might be able to claim compensation on top of a refund or alternative flight. The amount of compensation differs depending on when you were told about the cancellation, the length of the flight, and how long you had to wait for a new flight. The cancellation also needs to have been something which could have been avoided by the airline so again you won’t be able to claim for reasons such as extreme weather conditions or a crew strike.

Airlines don’t have to accept every claim and can refuse if ‘extraordinary circumstances’ apply. If your airline turns down the claim because of extraordinary circumstances you can challenge this if you do not believe it to be true. You can take the matter up with the local Civil Aviation Authority if it is not settled properly. Many airlines still try to wriggle out of such claims, and a good example of this is airlines claiming technical faults as extraordinary circumstances. This is because the regulation gives no definition of exactly what extraordinary circumstances are, but does give some examples. Typically, they include acts of terrorism, security risks, extreme weather e.g. volcanic ash, political unrest, industrial action strikes not relating to the airline and finally hidden manufacturing defects in an aircraft. If your airline tries to claim extraordinary circumstances, challenge them to explain exactly what they were and why they could not have been reasonably avoided. The onus is on the airline to prove this.

Regulation EU 261 does not set a time limit on how far back claims can go, instead stating that this should be determined by the laws in respective countries. In Hong Kong for example, the statute of limitations law is six years so by this logic an airline should consider claims for delays dating back six years from the time the claim is submitted. Again though, it is important though that you have kept your flight documents as proof of travel.

EU 261 also applies to denied boarding claims. You should not volunteer to surrender your seat if asked to do so by the airline. In cases where you volunteer to give up on your seat in exchange for a travel voucher, airline miles or other form of compensation you will be no longer eligible to claim under the EU Regulation. You won’t be entitled to compensation either if you failed to check-in on time, you were not at the gate on time, you did not have the required travel documents (boarding pass, passport, visa etc.), or you created or represented a health, safety or security concern. In other words, you are only covered when you have been denied boarding against your will. This often happens in cases of overbooking i.e. the airline (over) sold more tickets than there are seats on the plane. They do this to compensate for passenger “no-shows”, i.e. passengers who booked a ticket but then do not show up for a flight. If you are denied boarding because of an overbooked flight, you are also entitled to compensation.