Below you will find answers to common questions regarding passenger rights and package travel in view of the current coronavirus pandemic. Any information on this page should not be considered as legal advice.

As explained in question 4, the Commission Recommendation on vouchers of 13 May 2020 provides that carriers and organisers should automatically reimburse the amount of the voucher concerned to the passenger or traveller at the latest 14 days after the end of its validity period, if the voucher has not been redeemed. This also applies to the reimbursement of the remaining amount of the voucher concerned in the case of previous partial redemption.

Where the passenger accepted a voucher by signed agreement, the issuing carrier or trader’s terms & conditions and national law in principle apply as regards its redemption.

Where you were offered a voucher but did not accept it, see question 10.

Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 on air passenger rights provides for fixed-sum compensations to passengers in case of cancellations by the air carrier. This does not apply to cancellations made more than 14 days in advance or where the cancellation is caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’ that could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

In March 2020, the Commission adopted Interpretative Guidelines on EU passenger rights Regulations in the context of the developing situation with COVID-19, in which it clarified that under certain circumstances, a cancellation in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak can be due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

Cancellations solely based on commercial grounds cannot qualify as extraordinary circumstances. The air carrier must deliver the proof of the specific circumstances underlying the cancellation of the flight concerned, such as specific public health measures, and in particular entry or exit bans. The airline must also be able to prove that the cancellation could not have been avoided even if it had taken all reasonable measures.

EU regulation (EC) No 261/2004 provides, as a general rule, that passengers who are denied boarding by the airline against their will, although they have presented themselves in time for check-in, have the right to compensation, the right to choose between reimbursement and re-routing, as well as the right to care.

However, pursuant to the Regulation, passengers do not enjoy those statutory rights if boarding is denied on reasonable grounds related to health, safety or security, or inadequate travel documentation.

To limit the spread of the coronavirus Member States have adopted various measures which impact EU citizens’ right to move within the EU. This may entail measures by the Member State of destination requiring airlines to refuse carriage to passengers who are not in the possession of a COVID-19 test, vaccination or recovery certificate and who are also unable to prove otherwise that they fulfil the relevant requirements established by the Member State of destination. Such measures can constitute a reasonable ground for the airline to deny boarding. Airlines need to assess carefully if there are reasonable grounds for denying boarding to a passenger. Unless there are reasonable grounds to deny boarding, the passenger will always retain the right to compensation, the right to choose between reimbursement and re-routing, as well as the right to care, since these rights cannot be limited or waived as set out in Article 15 of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004.

The EU Digital COVID Certificate is a digital proof that a person has either been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result or has recovered from COVID-19. It can be obtained free of charge (in electronic format or as a paper print-out) and is accepted in all Member States as of 1 July 2021. The Certificate helps travellers to demonstrate that they fulfil the requirements under which Member States waive their current travel restrictions.

Passengers should in any event check the applicable public health measures and related restrictions applied at the point of destination, and ensure that they have all the necessary relevant documentation required by the Member State of destination. Please note that airlines and other cross-border passenger transport services might be required by national law to implement certain public health measures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Whether a passenger can nevertheless enjoy part or whole of the aforementioned rights in case of denied boarding on reasonable grounds will depend on the type of ticket as specified in the terms & conditions of the airline.

Compliance with the EU passenger rights regulations is ensured at the national level by the National Enforcement Bodies (NEBs), which are responsible for monitoring and enforcing the application of the respective Regulation by carriers.

The National Enforcement Bodies should provide you with a legally non-binding opinion on the way to proceed.

Passengers could normally expect a reply from a National Enforcement Body within 3 to 6 months. The duration of an investigation could vary depending on the complexity of the case and the level of cooperation of the carrier. Note that National Enforcement Bodies may be more busy than usual in the current period.