A day doesn’t go by when I don’t see someone complaining seriously delayed flight, cancellation of a flight altogether, having been downgraded, bumped (basically flight oversold) or something similar where the airline leaves the passengers stranded without providing adequate compensation or care.
European Union came up with regulation usually referred to as EC 261/2004 (the EC stands for European Commission) to regulate and harmonize the passenger rights within the EU members states + Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.
The regulation applies for all the flights within and from the European Union regardless of the airline, and to European Union airlines’ flights to EU. The regulation doesn’t apply for Community Carriers’ (EU airlines) flights where the origin and destination are both outside of the union. There are some fifth freedom flights that are affected by this such as British Airways flights within the Caribbean and KLM or Air France flights within Asia.
The airlines are supposed to inform the affected passengers about their rights by handing out information but this rarely happens.
It is passenger’s responsibility to know their rights and claim the cash compensation in case they are eligible. It is estimates that less than 1% of eligible passenger’s collect the cash.
Some airlines have not been paying the required compensation claiming that they are not required to do so due to “extraordinary circumstances” such as mechanicals. The European Court has clarified that mechanicals are not extraordinary circumstances due to maintenance being under airlines’ control.
There are now companies that handle the entire complaint process on the passenger’s behalf and collect 30% to 40% of the compensation for their work.
Passengers are eligible for up to 600 euro compensation in the case of their flight is delayed by 2 to 4 hours depending of the length or canceled. Airlines are required to provide care (hotel accommodation, meals etc.) in case of long delays or cancellations. You can download the Your Passenger Rights app or read more about this regulation on EU’s website here.
I have covered quite a few of these EC 261/2004 cases here on LoyaltyLobby. Many readers that are not from the EU have been surprised that they have been able to collect serious cash in case of delays and cancellations of the US airlines when flying back to the States from Europe.
Unfortunately many airlines are trying to ignore these claims and you have to go to the national enforcement body for them to nod the airline to pony up.
I was surprised that Singapore Airlines had the required leaflets out on the check in desks in Barcelona couple of weeks back. The flight was delayed only by an hour and they were handing out refreshment vouchers as well.
One would hope that other countries would introduce similar regulation that would benefit the traveling public and ensure that airlines’ would have the interest to actually operate per their schedule.
If one travels to the European Union (+ the three countries mentioned above), it is best to use Community Carrier to be protected by law in case of irregular operations. You can take any flight from the European Union, however.