Denied Boarding Regulation

It’s hugely frustrating if you’re stranded because of a cancelled or delayed flight. But you have rights to assistance and maybe even compensation - depending on where you’re flying from or to.

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Passenger rights

The Denied Boarding Regulation applies to passengers departing from an airport within the EU, whatever the airline is.  

The Regulation also applies to passengers departing from an airport outside the EU for an airport within the EU, if the operating air carrier is a Community carrier. This means a carrier with a valid operating license granted by an EU state.

Despite the title of the Regulation, its impact is wider than denied boarding, as it also covers cancellations and delays.

Flight compensation amounts

You are entitled to claim compensation if your flight is cancelled. The amounts stipulated are:

  • €250 (£217) for flights under 1500 kilometres (932 miles - short haul)
  • €400 (£347) for all longer flights within EU, and for all other flights between 1500 kilometres (932 miles) and 3500 kilometres (2175 miles - medium haul)
  • €600 (£521) for all other flights (long haul)

Distance is measured to the final destination.

Compensation is reduced by 50% if the ultimate arrival time is within two hours for short haul flights, within three hours for medium haul flights and within four hours for long haul flights.

Compensation can be paid by cash, bank transfer or cheque. Only if the passenger agrees can it be paid in travel vouchers or other services.

Reimbursing you

Where this right arises, you are entitled to reimbursement within seven days, of the full costs of the ticket at the price at which it was bought for the part of the journey not made (and the parts already made if they are then useless).  

Where relevant, you are also entitled to the earliest possible return flight to the point of departure or rerouting to the final destination at the earliest opportunity or, if you prefer, at a later date.

Free refreshments, accommodation and calls

Where this applies you are entitled to the following:

  • suitable meals and refreshments
  • hotel accommodation
  • transport transfers to and from the hotel
  • two free telephone calls, faxes or emails

Carriers are required to pay special attention to the need of disabled and unaccompanied children.

Flight cancellations

If a flight is cancelled, a carrier must offer to reimburse you or reroute you,  either on the next available flight or on an agreed date, plus provide any meals/refreshments/telephone calls. 

If rerouting involved departing the following day or later, you are entitled to hotel accommodation if necessary. 

In addition, you are entitled to compensation, unless you are told of the cancellation at least two weeks before departure, or rerouting will get you to your destination no more than two hours late.

There is an exception to the right to compensation if the carrier can prove that the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. 

Technical faults, unless they stem from events which, by their nature or origin, are not inherent in the normal exercise of the air carrier, do not count as examples of extraordinary circumstances.

Flight delay assistance

If your flight is delayed, to be entitled to meals, refreshments, phone calls and emails, a delay must be one of the following:

  • at least two hours for a flight of 1500 kilometres (932 miles) or less
  • three hours or more for all  flights within the EU exceeding 1500 kilometres (932 miles) 
  • three hours for all other flights between 1500 kilometres (932 miles) and 3500 kilometres (2175 miles)
  • more than four hours for all other flights

Such a delay will give you an automatic right to meals/refreshments and telephone calls. If a delay means your departure isn't until the following day, then you may be entitled to hotel accommodation. 

Most significantly, if a delay is at least five hours, then the right to reimbursement comes into play.

Flight delay compensation

Following a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union in October 2012,  if your flight is delayed you may be able to claim compensation.  

But you can only claim compensation if the delay means you arrive at your destination more than three hours later than the original scheduled arrival time.  

The compensation to which you are entitled will range from between €250 and €600, depending on the length of your flight. 

However, for some long haul flights (eg more than 3,500 kilometres) compensation can be reduced by 50% if you arrive at your destination within four hours of the original scheduled arrival time. 

There is an exception to the right to compensation if the carrier can prove that the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. 

Overbooked flights

Where a carrier expects to have to deny boarding to one or more passengers, it must first call for volunteers, in exchange for benefits. 

If there are not enough volunteers, then the carrier can deny boarding to passengers against their will, but must then pay compensation, and give assistance. 

If your airline refuses to compensate you

In the event of either a cancellation or flight delay, the first thing you must do is contact the airline directly, and make it known that you'll be claiming compensation. 

If the flight operator doesn't resolve the matter, you should then contact the Civil Aviation Authority.

If your airline denies compensation for delay, refer them to the October 2012  Court of Justice of the European Union ruling,  and tell your airline that you want them to reconsider your claim.

If they still refuse you should consider taking the matter to court. You have six years from when your flight was delayed to make a claim, so there is no need to rush to court now.

Package holidays

The Regulation also applies to flights that form part of a package holiday but the obligation under the Regulation will remain with the carrier.

If you're seeking reimbursement of your flight costs you will not be entitled to receive a full refund of your package holiday costs under the Regulation.

However, where the delay, cancellation or denied boarding constitutes a significant change to the package holiday as a whole, the normal rules under the Package Travel Regulations will apply.

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