Do you know your rights if you find yourself in a situation where your flight will be considerably delayed, is cancelled, or you are being denied boarding?

Air passengers rights

Should you find yourself in a situation where your flight will be considerably delayed, is cancelled, or you are being denied boarding as the number of registrations for a certain flight exceeds the number of seats available, you should contact the employees or representatives of the air carrier as they will be the first to assist you in the given situations.

The operating air carrier must ensure that a clearly legible notice containing the following text is displayed in a manner clearly visible to passengers at check-in: "If you have been denied boarding or if your flight has been cancelled or delayed for at least two hours, please enquire at the check-in counter or boarding gate for the document which relays your legal rights, in particular with regard to compensation and assistance".

There are a number of rights enforced in European Union in order to grant the fair treatment of the flight passengers. Should you be denied boarding, your flight delays or be cancelled, or something happens to your luggage, be aware of your rights! Click here to find Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council that regulates the rights of passengers.

Rights provided in the regulation 261/2004 apply to the flight passengers:

  • flying to or arriving in an airport located on the territory of EU member state or;
  • whose flights depart from the airports of the third countries to the airport of EU member state and are operated by the air companies registered in EU.

Denied boarding

It sometimes may happen that the flight you have bought your ticket for is overbooked. In this situation, the air carrier must offer a possibility to quit the flight for an agreed compensation for the volunteers. In addition to the compensation, the flight passenger having voluntarily quit the flight shall have right to have the ticket money repaid or arrive in the destination by a suitable replacement flight. If there are not enough volunteers, the air carrier shall have right to deny boarding to a necessary number of passengers.

In addition to the right to have the ticket money returned or arrive in the destination by a suitable replacement flight, the involuntarily denied boarding passengers shall also have right to get immediately a compensation of 125 – 600 Euros (depending on the flight duration and duration of the delay occurred at the change of the route) and care (sufficient food, accommodation, transport and communication possibilities).

Cancellation of the flight

If your flight is cancelled, you are right to claim from the air carrier the repayment of the ticket money or replacement flight for the arrival in the destination. If you decide upon the replacement flight incurring waiting time, the air carrier shall have obligation to offer you the care (sufficient food, accommodation, transport and communication possibilities). In addition, the passengers shall have right to claim a compensation of 125 - 600 Euros depending on the flight duration and duration of the delay. If the passengers have been informed betimes about the cancellation or it appears that the cancellation was caused by exceptional circumstances (e.g. weather conditions, unexpected strike, etc.), the air carrier shall have no obligation to pay compensation. However, the operating air carrier shall have obligation to prove the exceptionality of the cancellation.

Long-term delay of the flight
Delay of the flight departure of more than 2 hours shall be deemed long-term delay. In case of the delay of more than two hours, the passengers shall have right to get the care including sufficient catering and communication possibilities. If the flight delays more than 5 hours, the passengers shall have right to have the ticket money repaid (if necessary, additionally a free flight to the departure point of the trip). If the delay incurs the need for accommodation, the air carrier shall have obligation to grant the hotel accommodation for the passengers, and if necessary, the transport from the airport to the hotel and back.

According to the judgement of the European Court of Justice, if the flight arrives in the destination three hours later than planned, the passengers shall have right to get a statutory compensation of 125 - 600 Euros. The air carrier shall be released from the obligation of the payment of the compensation only in case it is able to prove that the delay was caused by exceptional circumstances that could not have been avoided even if all possible measures had been taken.

Problems with the luggage

If your luggage delays or disappears during the flight or you discover after the flight that the luggage is damaged, in order to fix the situation, you should first address immediately the operating air carrier or luggage desk where the report on the event shall be prepared.

In case of the damaged luggage, claim should be submitted to the air carrier in 7 days after the event. Otherwise, the air carrier may justifiably refuse from revising your claim. If the luggage delays or is disappeared, the deadline of addressing the air carrier shall be 21 days since the time the luggage should have been delivered to you.

While filing a complaint about the luggage, you should submit the copies about the report on the event, luggage receipts and boarding cards to the air carrier and add your own claim. If possible, do not replace the damaged things or things lost from the luggage by new things before the consultation with the responsible air carrier. In case of the delay, loss or damage of the luggage, the limit of the compensation shall be 1131 SDR (Special Drawing Right) which is equal to approximately 1220 Euros.

Written notice about your rights

In case of the long-term delays, cancellations and denied boarding (e.g. overbooking), you should first immediately address the relevant air carrier who has an obligation to inform the involved passengers in written about their rights. Thus, if your flight delays more than two hours, the flight is cancelled or is overbooked, you are right to claim a written notice about your rights in the occurred situation from the air carrier. The notice must contain the information about the institution you are right to address in case you find the air carrier did not act lawfully.

Flight as a part of package

The above-mentioned rights shall also apply to the passengers having bought the package travel that includes the flight. In other words, if you are denied boarding, your flight delays or is cancelled, address the travel agent or manager for help. The travel agent shall have obligation to offer you the other possibilities for the arrival in the destination, or care or compensation, depending on your case.

Submitting a complaint

In case a problem occurs, it is first necessary to file a written complaint to the relevant air carrier together with the copies of all documents being the bases of your case (boarding cards, flight tickets, luggage receipts, etc.). If the air carrier does not reply to the complaint within a reasonable time or you find the solution offered by the air carrier unlawful, contact the European Consumer Centre.

How to proceed if the rights of a plane passenger are violated?

Should your flight be considerably delayed, cancelled altogether, or you are being denied boarding, you should first approach the employees or representatives of the operating air carrier concerned, as they are required to assist their passengers. If you are being denied the required assistance or if the aforementioned rights are violated, we would recommend that you file a complaint immediately with the operating air carrier concerned.

Should the consumer and operating air carrier fail to reach an understanding, consumers are entitled to apply to the European Consumer Centre of Estonia or to the Estonian Consumer Protection Board (National Enforcement Body) for assistance. As provided for by law, the Consumer Protection Board may issue a precept to the operating air carrier concerned, demanding that the carrier pay compensation to the passenger as well as providing the necessary assistance.

NB! Download the App for passenger rights! The application is available on four popular mobile platforms: Apple iPhone and iPad, Google Android, RIM Blackberry and Microsoft Windows Phone 7.
 

Case-law of the Court of Justice