EU Firms Up Air Passenger Rights

While everybody looks forward to going on holiday, there are elements of travelling abroad that can be stressful. Amongst the things most likely to cause anxiety and stress, long flight delays and cancellations are high on the list of situations we would most like to avoid.

Flight delays

Which is why the recent decision by the European Community to impose a compensation structure on these kind of events will go some way to make up for occasions where passengers have no control over the outcome. Although financial remuneration won’t alleviate the problem itself it does acknowledge the strain that individuals and families feel when faced with delays and other changes to their flight schedule.

Passenger Compensation

The way in which the compensation works is as follows:

Delays have to be over two hours in duration on short haul flights in order for the airline to be obliged to provide food and drink to waiting passengers. Should the delay extend overnight, they are also obliged to provide overnight accommodation, transport to and from such accommodation and two phone calls, faxes or emails.

On longer flights, the delay has to be of four hours or more duration before the airline is required to offer the same services. Monetary compensation is not automatically triggered by a delay alone, especially when the airline has been able to provide refreshments, food and other services.

However, where a flight has been cancelled or overbooked, financial compensation will normally be forthcoming. For flights cancelled more than two weeks before you are due to fly, there should be remuneration paid to passengers. If the flight is cancelled within two weeks of the flight date, and no alternative service is offered to you which will get you to your destination, even if by an alternative route, you are entitled to a payment.

If your flight has been overbooked and you cannot take the seat you have paid for, the airline will normally ask if any passengers will volunteer to accept compensation instead. If you are still unable to board the flight because of overbooking, you are entitled to compensation. The amount paid to passengers is determined by the distance of the flight, in both circumstances – cancellation and overbooking.

Should your flight be downgraded – in other words, changed from business to economy class – compensation is also paid, of between 30 and 75 percent of the ticket value and dependent on the flight distance.

Flights that travel up to 1,500 kilometres trigger a compensation payment of 200 Euros per person.

Flights of between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres or over 1,500 within the European community will result in a payment of 400 Euros.

Flights of over 3,500 kilometres are compensated with 600 Euros.

Payments will be made either in cash, by bank transfer, by cheque or to a designated account. Both charter and package flights are covered by these rules and they apply to any flight beginning from an airport within the European Community.

If you have experienced a situation which you think entitles you to compensation, the first place to start in making a complaint is with the airline who sold you the ticket. If the matter is not resolved to your satisfaction, there are a number of bodies you can contact, including NI Direct Government Services, the European Consumer Centre and the British Air Transport Association.