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“What are airlines’ obligations towards their passengers?”

Sophie was due to fly from Toulouse in France to Krakow in Poland at 2 pm. When she arrived at the airport, she found her flight was delayed by 11 hours. The airline told her that one of its planes had broken down, but it refused to offer any compensation.

“I waited the whole day in the airport and spent money on food and drink. Shouldn’t the airline have at least provided some refreshments?”

When travelling by air for business or pleasure, you have certain rights when it comes to information, delays, cancellations, overbooking and damage to your luggage, thanks to EU rules. The rules apply even if there are extraordinary circumstances which caused the flight disruption.

These rights apply to scheduled domestic flights within an EU country and to charter flights leaving or arriving at an EU airport. For flights arriving from outside the EU, these rights only apply to EU airlines.

Long delays

If you check in on time for a flight and there is a significant delay, the airline must provide you with meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation if necessary, and communication facilities. The airline also has to give you a written statement about your rights as a passenger.


When the delay is 5 hours or more, the airline should also offer to refund your ticket, but only if you decide not to take the delayed flight. There is no financial compensation for delays.

Overbooking

If there are too many passengers booked for the seats available, the airline firstly has to call for volunteers willing to give up their seats. It is only then that an airline can decide not to take certain passengers on board. It is subsequently obliged to offer you financial compensation. You are also entitled to meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation if necessary, communication facilities and a written statement about your rights as a passenger.


Cancellation

If your flight is cancelled due to reasons within the airline’s control, the operating airline should provide you with either a refund of your ticket or alternative transport to your final destination. Under certain circumstances, and as long as the cancellation is not the result of a force majeure incident beyond its control such as a war or natural disaster, the airline has to pay you financial compensation. It also has to give you meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation, if necessary, communication facilities and a written statement about your rights as a passenger.


Lost luggage

You may claim compensation for destruction, damage, loss or delay of your luggage on a flight by an EU airline, anywhere in the world.


Resolution of disputes

In order to avoid lengthy and costly court cases, EU countries are obliged to set up independent national bodies to deal with passengers’ complaints and any disputes they may have with airlines. For the name and address of the relevant authority, or details of organisations which can advise or help with other complaints (e.g. loss of luggage, injury, and package holidays), contact Europe Direct by freephone on 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11, or by e-mail via the website europedirect.europa.eu.


Further information: http://ec.europa.eu/transport/passenger-rights/index.html

Further information: Air Transport Portal of the European Commission

 
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