Plane trips is a fast, comfortable and in the era of cheap airlines, more popular form of travelling in Europe. Unfortunately, not always the trips pass without disruptions, sometimes the airlines passengers may experience some problems. These should include the refusal to accept on board, flight cancellation, significant delays, problems with luggage and even body injury or death of a person. Therefore, it is worth knowing what rights the airlines passengers are entitled to in Europe and how to use them.
Basic consumer rights in case of refusal to accept on board, cancellations or flight delays are contained in Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91.
Provisions of the regulation (EC) No 261/2004 are applicable to charter, regular, domestic flights, to passengers:
- flying from the airport located on the territory of EU country/EEA country /Switzerland,
- flying from the airport located in third country and landing on an airport in the EU country/EEA country/ Switzerland; unless they received benefits or compensation and they were helped in this third country, if the flight is operated by an EU/EEA/Swiss airline.
If the operating air carrier has grounded reasons to predict that the flight will be delayed in relation to the scheduled taking off:
- by two or more hours in case of flights up to 1 500 kilometres or
- by three or more hours in case of all inter-community flights longer than 1 500 kilometres and all other flights of the length between 1 500 and 3 500 kilometres or
- by four or more hours in case of all other flights than the ones specified in point a) or b),
Passengers receive from the operating air carrier free-of-charge meals and beverages in quantities adequate to the time of waiting as well as the right to two phone calls, two telex, two fax messages or e-mails.
The passengers are entitled to free-of-charge hotel accommodation and free transport between the airport and hotel when the reasonably expected time of departure is at least the day after the time of departure previously announced.
When a delay is at least five hours, the passengers are entitled to choose between:
- refund, within seven days, of complete ticket cost at the price for which it was purchased, for part or parts of not conducted trip and for part or parts already conducted if the flight does no longer serve any aim related to the primary itinerary, together with, if it's applicable
- return flight to the first place of departure, in the earliest feasible term.
Refusal to accept passenger on board of a plane and cancellation of flights
If a operating air carrier has grounded reasons to predict the refusal of acceptance on board, he should first call the volunteers to give up their reservation in exchange for the benefits on conditions agreed between a certain passenger and operating air carrier. Additionally, a carrier should suggest to the volunteers a right to choose among:
- refund, within seven days, of a full cost of a ticket at the price for which it was purchased, for a part or parts of not conducted trip and for the part or parts already conducted if a flight does no longer serve any aim related to primary passenger's itinerary together with, if it's applicable,
- return flight to the first place of departure, in the earliest possible term;
- change of itinerary, on comparable conditions, to their destination, in the earliest possible term or;
- change of itinerary, on comparable conditions, to their destination, in a later term, convenient for a passenger, depending on the availability of free seat.
If a number of volunteers does not allow for accepting on board other passengers with reservations, then the operating air carrier may, against the will of passengers, deny boarding to passengers.
In case of refusal to accept passengers on board, against their will, the operating air carrier immediately pays out to them the compensation and provides help.
The amount of compensation depends upon the length of flight and amounts into:
- 250 EUR for all flights of the length up to 1 500 kilometres;
- 400 EUR for all flights within the European Union longer than 1 500 kilometres and all other flights of the length from 1 500 to 3 500 kilometres;
- 600 EUR for all flights other than the ones specified in letter a) or b).
While specifying the distance, the base is the last destination, to which the passenger's arrival will take place after the time of planned arrival due to the delay caused by refusal of acceptance on board or cancellation of flight.
If passengers were offered to change the itinerary to their destination into an alternative flight, which time of arrival does not exceed the planned time of arrival of the primarily reserved flight
- by two hours in case of all flights of the length up to 1 500 kilometres; or
- by three hours in case of all inter-community flights longer than 1 500 kilometres and all other flights of the distance from 1 500 to 3 500 kilometres or;
- by four hours in case of all flights other than the ones specified in point a) or b),
the operating air carrier may decrease the compensation provided in section 1 by 50%.
The right to compensation in case of flight cancellation is not entitled when passengers:
- were informed on the cancellation at least two weeks before the planned time of departure or;
- were informed on the cancellation in the period from two weeks to seven days before the planned time of departure and they were offered the change of itinerary, which makes their departure possible at the latest two hours before planned time of departure and reaching their destination maximum four hours after planned time of arrival or;
- were informed on the cancellation in the period shorter than seven days before the planned departure and they were offered the change of their itinerary, which makes their departure possible maximum an hour before the planned time of departure and reaching their destination maximum two hours after the planned time of arrival.
Providing help stands for:
- Proposing to passengers a right to choose between:
- return, within seven days, of a total cost of a ticket at the price for which it was purchased, for part or parts of not conducted trip and for part or parts already conducted if the flight has no longer any aim related to the primary passenger's itinerary,
- return flight to the first place of departure, in the earliest possible deadline;
- change of itinerary, on comparable conditions, to their destination, in the earliest possible deadline or;
- change of itinerary, on comparable conditions, to their destination, in the later time convenient for a passenger, depending on the availability of free seats.
- A free offer of meals, beverages, accommodation in hotel, transport between hotel and airport, phone calls, fax transmissions or mails.
In relation to baggage cases e.g. delay, loss, damage of the luggage shall apply the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (the Montreal Convention) adopted at a Diplomatic Conference in Montreal adopted on 28 May 1999. Its rules were implemented in the Community by Regulation (EC) No 2027/97 (as amended by Regulation (EC) No 889/2002) and national legislation of the Member States.
Under its provisions you are entitled to apply for compensation to the amount of 1000 SDR for the damage, delay or loss of luggage during the flight by airlines from the E.U country to any airport in the world.
If a carrier evades responsibility for the damage incurred by a passenger, the passenger may assert his claims in court.
Any claims, related to the damaged checked-in luggage, should be reported within 7 days from the day of its receipt, in case of delayed luggage - within 21 days from the receipt.
You may institute a claim for compensation against a carrier with whom you concluded a contract or the one servicing a certain flight if it is not the same carrier.
Body injury or death in accident
You are entitled to apply for compensation for injuries or death of your relatives due to accident during a flight serviced by a carrier from the European Union to any airport in the world. A passenger is entitled to advance payment in order to cover the immediate financial needs.
If a carrier evades responsibility for the incurred damages, you may assert your claims in court. A passenger may institute a claim for compensation against the carrier with whom he concluded a contract or the one operating a certain flight if it is not the same carrier.
Apart from the above-described rights, a passenger may institute a claim for compensation against organisers of a tourist trip for the failure to conduct services provided in the agreement concluded in one of the E.U countries, irrespectively of the destination of the trip.
The rights are binding in case of failure to provide the flight provided in the agreement concluded between the trip organiser and a passenger. Additionally, if an organiser does not meet the provisions of the agreement in relation to the significant part of the organised trip, he is obliged to assure alternative benefits together with transport, without any additional costs for a trip participant.
What to do if an airline carrier fails?
When a passenger states that the delay increases to the extent difficult to accept or when already picked up luggage is damaged or it can't be found - the first step should be turning to the representative of airlines servicing a certain flight with the request to solve the problem. It is good to focus the attention on the way in which the registration of such a report is made, it is recommended to obtain a written confirmation of such a report.
However, if a carrier does not solve the problem in a satisfactory way, one should seek the settlement in third party institutions - outside the relation: customer - entrepreneur. The passenger's protection in the European Union countries, relatively for not a long time has been provided by specialised authorities of public administration, in Poland this role has been taken by The Civil Aviation Office and more strictly the functioning within its structures - Commission of Passenger's Rights Protection (KOPP). The supervisory competencies of this institution focus on the refusal to accept on board, flight cancellation and significant delay.
You could lodge your complaint directly with that body using bi-lingual complaint form put on the website:
The help may be given by ECC-NET in all cases except problems with those problems falling under competence of The Civil Aviation Office (denied boarding, flight cancellation and significant delay)
Within the aid to Polish consumers, a crucial supporting function may also be fulfilled by institutions of the first line of consumer protection, i.e. consumer associations, district or municipal consumer ombudsmen.
What is worth remembering?
- While purchasing tickets by electronic way, you are not entitled, as it is often the case of contracts concluded for distance (link), to waive the contract.
- Inspect the offers of carriers in a more careful way. Especially the ones who very often advertise attractive flight prices in order to gain passengers, however one should remember about other trip costs, e.g. high airport fees or overstated prices of return tickets.
- Before the departure try to get information where the destination airport is located as it may turn out that the distance of the airport to the destination is so big (even a few dozen kilometres from the destination) that it will require incurring additional, sometimes significant funds for bus, train or taxi.
- Airport fees may vary at different carriers. If your carrier fails and will suggest you a flight by other airlines, having higher fees, you may demand from him the levelling of losses.
- In the hand luggage there shouldn't be carried sharp objects (e.g. scissors, penknives), gas (except deodorants), spirit, firearms, poison. It is allowed to carry in small quantity: alcohol beverages, medicines, cosmetics. On the whole, it is not allowed to take a bike on board. In some airlines it is allowed to take prams.
- The tags with your forename, surname and exact address (as well as country where you live) placed outside and inside the luggage will allow for getting it back in case of loss.
- Generally, in cheap offers a meal is not included, for snacks and beverages you pay separately on board.
Delay - opóźnienie
Departure - odlot
Arrival - przylot
Cancellation - anulowanie lotu
Overboarding - przepełnienie
Check-in - odprawa