Court rules airlines must pay for delaysAirlines to pay passengers compensation

11 January 2006

Airlines have been told they can't wriggle out of paying compensation to passengers whose flights are cancelled or delayed.

New EU rules came into force last February guaranteeing passengers better rights if they couldn't board their flight because of overbooking, cancellation or flight delay.

But airlines complained the new rules were unfair and too costly. Two industry bodies, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) and the European Low Fares Airline Association (ELFAA), appealed to the European Court of Justice.

However, it's now declared that the rules are fair. Holiday Which? has welcomed the decision.

Challenge 'quite rightly' thrown out

Head of Research Anne Harvey said:'This is great news for the millions of us who fly every year and shows that the airline industry has run out of excuses for not providing passengers with assistance if things go wrong.

'Last year Holiday Which? highlighted the fact that Ryanair were refusing to comply with legislation which obligated them to provide care for passengers faced with long delays. This could have been such things as putting people up in a hotel for the night if a flight was re-routed or paying compensation if a flight was cancelled.

'Iata and ELFAA claimed, on behalf of the airlines, that the cost was too onerous on their members. The European Court of Justice have quite rightly thrown out the challenge and have paved the way for passengers who face travel delays in the future to expect help and support from the airline they paid to travel with.'

Free meals and accommodation

Under the rules, passengers who can't fly because airlines have deliberately sold more tickets than they have seats are entitled to compensation ranging from GBP 172 for short-haul flights to GBP 414 for long-haul journeys. The same applies if flights are cancelled at less than two weeks' notice.

For long delays, airlines have to provide meals and refreshments, as well as free hotel accommodation if passengers can't fly until the next day. If delays are longer than five hours, airlines also have to offer a refund within a week if passengers don't fly.

All EU-based airlines and operators of flights which take off from the EU have to adhere to the compensation rules.