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

The Regulations also apply 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 cancellation and delay.

Where a carrier expects to have to deny boarding, 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 (article 7)  and give assistance (articles 8 and 9). 

The amounts stipulated are:

  • 250 Euro (£217) for flights under 1500 kilometres (932 miles) (Short haul)
  • 400 Euro (£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 Euro (£521) for all other flights (Long haul)

Distance is measured to the final destination.

Compensation is reduced to 50% if 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.

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.

The precise relationship between this Regulation and the Package Travel Regulations is unclear. There is a reference to the Package Travel Regulations, but it serves only to make the point even more obscure.  

The best view is probably that the carrier must reimburse (in the case of a five hour delay) the full costs of the ticket. But this is without prejudice to the rights that you would have against the Tour Operator under the Package Travel Regulations, where the flight was part of a package.

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.

If a flight is cancelled, a carrier must offer Article 8 assistance plus the meal/refreshments/telephone call part of Article 9 assistance. 

If rerouting involved departing the following day or later, the rest of Article 9 assistance comes into play. In addition you are entitled to Article 7 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.

To come within the Regulation delay must be 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), and all other flights between  1500 kilometres (932 miles) and 3500 kilometres (2175 miles); and more than four hours for all other flights.

Such delay will give you an automatic right to a meal/refreshments/telephone calls part of Article 9 assistance. If delay takes departure to the following day, then the rest of Article 9 comes into play. 

Most significantly, if a delay is at least five hours, then the right to Article 8 reimbursement comes into play.

Following a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union in October 2012,  if your flight is now delayed you may now rely on the right to compensation laid down in article 7 of the Regulations.  

These only come into play when on account of such flights, there is a  loss of time equal to or in excess of three hours.  

That is to say when you reach your final destination three hours or more after the arrival  time originally scheduled by the air carrier.

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

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. 

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.

The Regulations also apply to flights that form part of a package holiday but the obligation under the Regulations 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 Regulations.

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.