Airplane passengers: your rights to compensation

The European regulation 261/2004 protège les passagers aériens en cas d’annulation, retard de vol et refus d’embarquement. Découvrez ici quels sont vos droits et comment obtenir le remboursement d’un vol annulé ou retardé auprès d’une compagnie aérienne. 

To whom does the European regulation apply?

The European regulation applies:

  • To all passengers departing from a country of the European Union, Iceland, Norway (or Switzerland);
  • To all passengers arriving from a country of the European Union, Iceland, Norway (or Switzerland) if the airline is European.

Delayed flight: what compensation?

Your plane is delayed if you reach your destination at least 3 hours later than the original scheduled time. You are entitled to compensation.

The compensation due in case of delay depends on the distance of the flight. It is:

  • 250€ for flights up to 1500 kilometers,
  • 400€ for flights between 1500 and 3500 km,
  • 600€ beyond 3500 km, provided that you are at least 4 hours late (300 € for a delay between 3 and 4 hours). 

Calculate your compensation thanks to the "flight calculator " developped by the Norway ECC.

Good to know: The delay is calculated at the arrival and not at the departure of the plane. The arrival time of a plane is defined by the opening of at least one of these doors.

Your other rights in case of a flight delay

If your flight departs several hours late, you are entitled to free drinks and meals at the airport of departure, offered by your carrier, as well as two telephone calls, two faxes or two e-mails.

If the delay is so severe that your flight does not leave until the next day, you are also entitled to accommodation and transportation between the airport and the accommodation.

This assistance depends on the waiting time and to the flight distance. It is due if your flight takes off with a delay of more than:

  • 2 hours for flights up to 1500 km,
  • 3 hours for flights in the European Union of more than 1500 km and for all other flights between 1500 et 3500 km,
  • 4 hours for flights of more than 3500 km.

Calculate your compensation thanks to the "Flight calculator" developed by the Norway ECC.

For delays of 5 hours or more at departure, you have the choice between:

  • Continue your trip,
  • Postpone it,
  • Renounce it and get a refund of the tickets for the part(s) of your trip not taken and for the part(s) of your trip already taken and no longer needed (e.g., flight delay on departure of a connecting flight, return paid for by the company).

Cancelled flight: request reimbursement and compensation

If your flight departs several hours late, you are entitled to free drinks and meals at the airport of departure, offered by your carrier, as well as two telephone calls, two faxes or two e-mails.

You are also entitled to choose between the refund of your ticket or another flight to your final destination in similar transport conditions.

Then, you are entitled to a compensation of:

  • 250€ for flights up to 1500 kilometers,
  • 400€ for flights between 1500 and 3500 km,
  • 600€ beyond 3500 km, provided that you are at least 4 hours late (300 € for a delay between 3 and 4 hours).

Calculate your compensation thanks to the "Flight calculator" developed by the Norway ECC.

This compensation is not due if:

  • You have been informed of the cancellation of your flight at least 2 weeks before the departure
  • The departure of the alternative flight is less than 2 hours earlier or the arrival is delayed by less than 4 hours;
  • The airline proves that the cancellation is due to exceptional circumstances (extraordinary events such as volcanic eruption, floods, civil wars, earthquake…)
View on the rudder of an aircraft on the ground with the EU flag on it.

Brochure: air passenger rights

Flight cancelled or delayed? Damaged or lost luggage? Thanks to the European Union, you have rights! Find in our brochure all the information about your rights and our advice on how to enforce them with the airline.

What exceptional circumstances are not eligible for compensation?

If the airline proves that the flight cancellation or delay is due to unavoidable extraordinary circumstances, it is not be required to pay the expected compensation. The European regulation 261/2004 does not give examples but indicates that “extraordinary circumstances” occur when air traffic is disrupted “although all reasonable measures have been taken by the air carrier in order to avoid delays and cancellations.”

Specific situations constitute to an undeniable way exceptional circumstances justifying flight cancellation: the eruption of a volcano blocking air traffic, a heavy snowfall, a storm, a cyclone, an earthquake, an act of terrorism…

However, some of reasons for flight cancellations cited by the airline can be discussed.

This is the case of the staff strike of the airline, for example. As the airline is usually informed of the strike by its staff, we consider in France that it could in principle take measures to avoid flight cancellations. By contrast, when it is about the airport staff strike, air traffic controllers for example, this fact comes from outside the airline, which cannot avoid it. Flight cancellations in these circumstances will not be able in principle lead to a compensation.

Good to know: A technical problem is not an exceptional circumstance according to the Court of Justice of the European Union. Passengers are also entitled to a compensation in the event of a flight cancellation or delay due to a technical problem. This applies to all technical problems, which arise in the context of the normal activity of the airline. If it is the builder of the plane, who detect a manufacturing defect, the technical problem highlighted by the airline to cancel the flight will exempt it from the payment of the compensation, but not from the refund of the ticket or assistance (see the rights mentioned above).

Overbooking, denied boarding: what are your rights?

You may be denied boarding if the airline has sold more tickets than available seats: then you are victim of denied boardingbecause of overbooking.

In this case, the airline must first call on volunteers. Then, it must call on passengers if they accept to delay their flight. If you are volunteer, you are entitled:

  • To the reimbursement of your ticket, and if necessary, take the responsibility for the return flight to your departure airport;
  • To meals and drinks by waiting the alternative flight;
  • To the payment of a compensation negotiated with the airline

If you are not volunteer and that you are denied boarding OR that you are victim of an unjustified denied boarding (example: the flight attendant tells you that you do not have not the required identity papers while you have all the necessary documents and the plane takes off during the time of this verification), you are entitled:

  • To choose between an alternative flight to your final destination and the refund of your ticket, and if necessary a return flight to your departure airport;
  • To meals, drinks, two phone calls, two faxes, or two emails, and if needed an accommodation and the transport between the airport and the accommodation;
  • To the payment of compensation of:
      • 250€ for flights up to 1500 kilometers,
      • 400€ for flights between 1500 and 3500 km,
      • 600€ beyond 3500 km, provided that you are at least 4 hours late (300 € for a delay between 3 and 4 hours).

Calculate your compensation thanks to the "Flight calculator" developed by the Norway ECC.

Good to know: Denied boarding may be justified, in particular on reasons of health, safety or security, or inadequate travel documents (presentation of a residence permit instead of an identity card). In this case, you are not entitled to assistance and compensation.

Claiming with an airline: procedures and form

If you have been victim of cancellation or flight delay, here are the procedures to follow to assert your rights.

  • At the airport, require written confirmation of the cancellation, the flight delay, or the denied boarding by the ground staff of the responsible airline, if possible specifying circumstances. If the employee refuses to issue this document, take photos of the notice board and ask other passengers in writing for testimonials.
  • Keep all your receipts of payment (hotel, taxi, meal) by waiting your flight.
  • Contact the airline: contact the actual carrier, it means the one who was to concretely carry out the flight. This may be a different company from the one that sold the flight. On your reservation, check the mention “operated by”.

Example: a ticket is sold by a French airline but the flight is operated by an Italian airline. In case of flight delay, you would have to contact to the Italian company.

In the case of travel with several successive airlines, you will have to backfire on the carrier that made the journey during which the incident took place, unless one of the companies has contacted you to declare itself responsible for the entire journey.

  • Use the online form of your airline. Once completed online, take a screenshot to keep a proof of your procedure.
  • If your procedure failed at the end of 6 weeks and if you have a litigation with an airline based in a European country, United Kingdom, Iceland or Norway, contact the European Consumer Centre of your home country for free!

You lives in France and you have a litigation with a French airline, contact a French consumer association.

You may also consider a mediation procedure

Passenger with reduced mobility

Disabled persons or with reduced mobility must be able to travel in Europe under similar conditions to those available to other travelers. The European regulation 1107/2006 specifies in particular that airlines or travel agency may not refuse to sell a ticket or to board a person because of his or her disability or age, except for security reasons, which must be directly justified.

If your reservation is refused for security reasons, you can choose between a full refund of the ticket price or re-routing to your final destination.

Ask the company for free assistance in the European Union airports.

The boarding and taking charge of any equipment necessary for mobility, included electric wheelchairs, must be free of charge. To receive an assistance at the airport for boarding, disembarkation and connections, you must make a request to the airline at the time of booking or no later than 48 hours in advance.