Had flight issues while travelling to Europe? File a complaint and you may get 600 EUR!

6 min read
September 20, 2019
flight delay cancellation compensation

Thousands of Indians travel to Europe every year for leisure or work. But, not every journey is plain sailing. Hundreds of flights get delayed or cancelled due to one issue or another. Most passengers do not go beyond yelling at the ground staff for such issues! Stay informed and know that there’s more you can do when your Europe bound flight gets cancelled or delayed.

A set of rules called the EC261 (or the EU regulation 261/2004), is in place to safeguard the rights of a person travelling from Europe. These are a comprehensive set of rules, applicable to anyone flying in and out of Europe. This law holds the airline accountable in case of flight cancellations, long delays and denied boarding due to overbooking.

If you are travelling within India or any other place than Europe, read these flight compensation guidelines.

How to file a compensation claim under the EC261 guidelines?

The good news is that you can do it all by yourself. You just need to be aware of your passenger rights.

  • To file a claim, contact the airlines directly. You can do so by visiting the airline’s office, or the website, or by sending an email. You don’t have to approach your travel agent for this matter. Talk directly to the airlines with whom you have an issue.
  • Next, you should be able to explain your issue in detail. Flight cancellation, boarding denial or delay- no matter what the problem is, explain your side to the authorities clearly. You should be able to provide your boarding pass or any other supporting document to validate your case.
  • Clearly mention the amount of compensation you expect from the airline. Don’t be hesitant or rude, justify your claim. You can do so 
  • If the airline denies your compensation claim, you can take an alternate route of negotiating with the airlines. For this, you’ll need some knowledge of the alternative dispute resolution mechanism of the country you’re in.
  • Also, another way out for you is to approach the National Enforcement Body (NEB). However, you may face language difficulties while communicating your grievance. And this can be a lengthy procedure- you may have to alter your itinerary accordingly if you choose this route.
  • Finally, if nothing helps, you can file a case in the Small Claims Court. To be able to manage a case in a European country, you’d need a lawyer. So this is not only time consuming, but it can leave a dent in your wallet. Choose wisely!

If you don’t wish to file a claim by yourself, you can hire a lawyer who’s an expert in the European Aviation Law to do it for you. This will be expensive.

Your best bet is to submit an issue via Resolver. The automated tool will manage your complaint for free. Start your case here-

Are you eligible for compensation under EC261?

EC261 covers all flights departing from European airports, regardless of an airline’s nationality. You are eligible for compensation under the following circumstances – 

  • Flight delay- When your flight is delayed by 3 hours or more.
  • Flight cancellation- When the airlines don’t inform you about a cancelled flight at least 14 days before the scheduled departure.
  • Denied boarding- When the airline is overbooked and you’re denied from boarding the plane.

You can claim compensation for-

  • Flights flying out of Europe
  • Flights flying within Europe
  • European airline flying out of any country

How much compensation does EC261 offer?

The compensation amount depends on the distance of your flight, regardless of the amount you paid to buy your ticket.

Flight distance Length of Delay Compensation 
Any distance 5+ hours Full ticket refund if you don’t take the flight
More than 3500 km 4+ hours 600 Euros
More than 3500 km 3-4 hours 300 Euros
More than 3500 km Less than 3 hours 0
1500- 3500 km 4+ hours 400 Euros
1500- 3500 km 3-4 hours 400 Euros
1500- 3500 km Less than 3 hours 0
Less than 1500 km 4+ hours 250 Euros
Less than 1500 km 3-4 hours 250 Euros
Less than 1500 km Less than 3 hours 0

If you were flying within Europe, you cannot claim more than 400 Euros even if the flight is longer than 3500 km.

You can receive the compensation through-

  • Cash
  • Electronic bank transfer
  • Bank orders or cheques
  • Travel vouchers or other services if you agree and sign the necessary documents

When are you not eligible to claim compensation under EC261?

Under extraordinary circumstances, no passenger is eligible for compensation. This includes events that are not under the control of the airlines, like- 

  • Major security risks
  • Political unrest
  • Medical emergency
  • Adverse weather conditions

When the airline goes bankrupt, it’ll be difficult to claim compensation as you’ll be considered as a creditor of the company instead of an aggrieved passenger. To claim from a bankrupt airline, you will have to file a civil case. 

What are your rights as a flight passenger in a European country?

Apart from the monetary compensation, you also have the following rights-

  • Information about your rights

The airline must inform you about your right to claim compensation under the EC261 guidelines. Every airline has to display the rules and regulations of EC 261 on the check-in counters.

  • Right to reimbursement and re-routing

The airline must make reimbursement within seven days. If not, the airline should arrange a return flight for you at the earliest.

  • Upgrading and downgrading

If the class of the alternative flight is lower, you can get a reimbursement between 30% to 75% of the price you originally paid!

The silver lining is that if the airline has placed you in a higher class than the original flight, they cannot charge you for the price difference.

  • The airline must provide the following for free-
  1. Meals and refreshments if there’s a delay of more than 2 hours
  2. Hotel accommodation for overnight delays
  3. Shuttle services between the hotel and airport
  4. Two calls/telex/fax messages or e-mails
  5. Special assistance to unaccompanied children or passengers with reduced mobility.

Additionally, if you end up paying for the above privileges by yourself, keep the receipts and claim the costs later from the airlines.

You are eligible for these services when – 

Carrier Distance Hours of delay
All flights 1500 km or less 2 hours or more
Internal EU flights  Over 1,500 km 3 hours or more
Non-internal EU flights  1,500 km to 3,500 km 3 hours or more
Non-internal EU flights  Over 3,500 km 4 hours or more

What is the time limit to file a claim?

The right to compensation under EC261 is not decided by your nationality. It is determined where the headquarters of the airline are. Also, the time limit varies from country to country:

  • Italy, Iceland, Croatia: 2 years
  • Germany, Austria, Finland: 3 years
  • France, Spain, Bulgaria: 5 years
  • UK: 6 years

Lastly, do not accept any alternate offer the airline makes. You have rights, exercise them. You don’t have to compromise. Moreover, the airline may try to lie and deny you of any compensation. In such a case, you can approach Resolver to make a claim for free. You will receive timely updates on your case and possible steps towards escalation. 

So, if you are travelling to the EU anytime soon, keep these flight compensation pointers in mind. Might come in handy!

Start your complaint now: claim flight compensation

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