A European Union directive to regulate your rights as an air passenger
Regulation of the European Community No. 261, issued on 11 February 2004 established common rules on compensation for passengers in case of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights. This text clarifies and strengthen your rights of European consumers by repealing Regulation 295/91.
Regulation of 2004 does not explicitly provide compensation for passengers in case of delay. Indeed, Article 6, which refers to the delay assumptions, makes a reference to Article 9 which provides for the opportunity to get free refreshments, opportunities for dining, accommodation, communications phone … This is the Court of justice, in a 2009 decision STURGEON, which will establish the criterion of 3 hours late or more to establish a right to compensation.
For this, it makes a comparison between the passengers of canceled flights and those flights delayed by stating that they “suffer similar inconvenience, namely loss of equal or greater time to three hours from the initial planning their flight “.
The Court, having stated that victims of cancellation or delay passengers are in a comparable situation, conducts a purposive interpretation of the regulation.
For the Court, the purpose of the Regulation is to increase protection for all air passengers and therefore, because of the principle of equal treatment, can not compensate passengers for canceled flights, and refrain from doing for those delayed flights.
In which case this law applies ?
The criterion for application of this law is twofold:
- Origin and destination of the flight
- Nationality of the airline
To understand in what circumstances you are entitled to compensation, we offer a summary table.
|Airline and origin||EU airline||Non-EU airline|
|From outside the EU to the outside EU||no||no|
|EU from outside the EU internal||Yes||no|
|From inside the EU and outside the EU||Yes||Yes|
|From inside the EU within the EU||Yes||Yes|
What are the compensation amounts ?
The compensation provided by the European texts range from 250 € to 600 € per passenger. The criterion for defining the expected amount is twofold:
- Distance between the two airports for your flight
- Delay constituting injury
Article 9 of Regulation 261/2004 also provides for the right to an incorporated support for:
- accommodation (if the flight is postponed until tomorrow)
- transportation to the place of accommodation
- phone calls
To understand how the amount of compensation you are entitled, we offer a summary of the event:
|Less than 3 hours late||More than 3 hours late||Distance|
|€ 0||€ 250||Less than 1500 km|
|€ 0||€ 400||Between 1500 km and 3500 km|
|€ 0||€ 600||More than 3500 km|
If you have been notified of the cancellation of your flight at least fourteen days before the date or the company has offered an alternative for the same route with a similar schedule to the original flight, so you do not have the right to compensation.
Why is it so difficult to get compensation ?
The airlines strongly oppose this legislation and work for its amendment to the European Parliament. Even if they have the legal duty to compensate their passengers who are harmed, many airlines prefer to turn their backs on the law. They speculate that air passengers abandon their efforts, which can be complex and go to court. The legal fees are then more important than compensation itself …
They may also bring “extraordinary circumstances” pursuant to Regulation 261/2004 that it is hard to lift without the expertise of a professional. The airlines do not hesitate to use this argument often without concrete evidence.