Every year, thousands of European holidaymakers are victims of delays, overbookings or cancellations of their flights. To limit abuses, Europe enacted 10 years ago a regulation that offers compensation to consumers.
Despite some improvements, cancellations and disruption of flights continue to be frequent. According to the Air Travel Delay Observatory (ORTA), the average delay recorded in 2012 was 10.8 minutes per flight on departure and 9 minutes per flight on arrival. Among the main causes of delays were the sequence of rotations, delays for airlines (17.9%), airports and security services (15%) and air navigation (11.8%). Surprisingly, the delays caused by bad weather concern only 4% of cases.
The rights of European passengers
Figures known but do not detract from the fact that too many travelers continue to misunderstand their rights. Of the 4.3 million passengers concerned per year (source DGAC), only 2% would file compensation claims. Indeed, according to European Regulation 261/2004, which came into force on February 17, 2005, travelers who suffer delays, overbooking or cancellation of flights may claim reimbursement or compensation.
Who are the passengers concerned?
– All travelers departing from an airport of one of the 28 member states of the European Union + Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.
– All travelers of a flight (European airline obligatorily) coming from an extra-EU state, to one of the 28 member states of the European Union + Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.
The planned assistance services
In case of delay, but also for any refusal of boarding due to overbooking or cancellation of his flight, a passenger is entitled to assistance provided by the airline:
– Support for refreshments
– Take charge of a meal
– Support for phone calls
– Take charge of a hotel night
– Support for hotel-airport transfers
Whether it is overbooking or cancellation, the compensation provided by the legislation is the same when a passenger can not board his original flight:
– 250 euros for flights less than 1,500 km
– 400 euros for flights over 1,500 km in the European Union, and 1,500 to 3,500 km for other flights
– 600 euros for flights over 3,500 km
The delay does not give rise to compensation, except if it is considered excessive and exceeds 5h. The passenger can then be refunded the entire ticket if he decides to give up his trip.
Compensation reduced by 50%
The airline, however, has the obligation to reroute a traveler who was unable to embark on his original flight. The previous indemnities are thus halved if the rerouting to another flight does not exceed certain hours of delay compared to the original schedule.
– 125 euros for flights less than 1,500 km less than 2 hours late
– 200 euros for flights over 1,500 km in the European Union, and 1,500 to 3,500 km for other flights, if the delay does not exceed 3 hours
– 600 euros for flights over 3,500 km if the delay does not exceed 4 hours
Exceptional cases that do not give rise to any compensation
Certain exceptional situations release the airline of its obligation of refund in case of delay of flight, overbooking or cancellation.
– If passengers were informed two weeks before their flight of the planned disruption
– If a seat is offered on another flight at a time close to the scheduled time
– If the circumstances of the disturbance are extraordinary and are part of the case of force majeure: weather, strike …
What to do to be compensated?
In the event of delay, overbooking and compensable cancellation, a passenger must first turn to the offending airline using this European complaint form.
If the aggrieved traveler does not receive an answer within 6 weeks to 2 months, the same form will have to be sent to the competent authority (the General Directorate of Civil Aviation for France) within the member state of the European Union or the inconvenience caused has occurred.
The European Parliament wants to strengthen the right of passengers
On 5 February, the European Parliament voted at first reading a new text reinforcing the European regulation 261/2004. It still needs to be agreed with the European Council for implementation.
In broad terms, the project provides for an increase in compensation, but also delays: 300 euros for delays of more than 3 hours for trips of less than 2,500 km, 400 euros for delays of more than 5 hours for travel between 2,500 and 6,000 km and 600 euros for delays of more than 7 hours for trips over 6,000 km.
Beyond the financial compensation, the text also enriches the proposed assistance services: for any delay in flight while the passengers are on the plane on the tarmac, travelers would necessarily have drinking water, access to the toilet , and a heating or air conditioning system.
Finally, the draft European law specifies the extraordinary conditions that have been debated for years: airlines would not be required to pay compensation in the event of a collision with a bird, political unrest or unforeseen labor disputes (strikes ).