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Denied-boarding compensation system

The action taken by the EU in the field of air transport aims, among other things, at ensuring a high level of protection for passengers. This Regulation establishes common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights.

ACT

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.

SUMMARY

This Regulation applies to:

  • passengers departing from an airport located in the territory of a Member State to which the EC Treaty applies; and
  • passengers departing from an airport located in a third country to an airport situated in the territory of a Member State to which the EC Treaty applies,

On condition that the passengers have a confirmed reservation on the flight concerned and, except in the case of cancellation, present themselves for check-in at the time indicated in advance or, if no time is indicated, not later than 45 minutes before the published departure time.

This Regulation establishes passengers' rights if:

  • they are denied boarding against their will;
  • their flight is cancelled;
  • their flight is delayed.

This Regulation does not apply to passengers travelling free of charge or at a reduced fare not available directly or indirectly to the public.

Denied boarding

When an air carrier reasonably expects to deny boarding on a flight, it first calls for volunteers to surrender their reservations in exchange for certain benefits. If an insufficient number of volunteers come forward to allow the remaining passengers to board the flight, the air carrier may then deny boarding to passengers against their will, in which case it must compensate them.

Air carriers give priority to persons with reduced mobility and any persons accompanying them.

In the event of flight cancellation or denied boarding, the passengers concerned have the right to:

  • reimbursement of the cost of the ticket within seven days or a return flight to the first point of departure or re-routing to their final destination;
  • care (refreshments, meals, hotel accommodation, transport between the airport and place of accommodation, two free telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails);
  • compensation totalling:
    - EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 kilometres or less;
    - EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres;
    - EUR 600 for all other flights.

Delays

The Regulation introduces a three-tier system:

  • in the event of long delays (two hours or more, depending on the distance of the flight), passengers must in every case be offered free meals and refreshments plus two free telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails;
  • if the time of departure is deferred until the next day, passengers must also be offered hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the place of accommodation;
  • when the delay is five hours or longer, passengers may opt for reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure.

Upgrading and downgrading

If an air carrier places a passenger in a class lower than that for which the ticket was purchased, the passenger must be reimbursed within seven days, as follows:

  • 30% of the price of the ticket for all flights of 1500 kilometres or less;
  • 50% of the price of the ticket for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres, except flights between the Member States and the French overseas departments, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres;
  • 75% of the price of the ticket for all other flights, including flights between the Member States and the French overseas departments.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 [adoption: codecision procedure COD/2001/305]17.2.2005-OJ L 46 of 17.2.2004
 
Last updated: 16.05.2007
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