Regulation EC-261 has revolutionised air travel, holding airlines accountable for mistakes and negligence. The accountability it creates ensures that you no longer need to cover financial losses when you’re not at fault for breaks in your trip or lost luggage. It applies to flights that start or end in the EU or are provided by a European carrier. Bookings through travel agencies or charters don’t remove your right to compensation.
The regulation in brief
The EC-261 won’t cover you if you were late for your flight, but if a three-hour delay is your airline’s fault, you have a right to a financial compensation unless extraordinary circumstances such as severe weather, strikes, or radar failure are in play. Your airline must provide replacement services in the form of a full refund or alternative flight for overnight delays. If your airline overbooked, you’re covered by the EC-261. Your airline is also required to take care of your needs during a lengthy delay. This could take the form of hotel stays, meals, and transfer fees. Care services are due for shorter delays and take the form of food, internet access, transport, and accommodation. Delays of over five hours give you the right to abandon your travel plans entirely and still receive full compensation. The regulation also applies if you’re denied boarding through no fault of your own.
Many travellers believe that booking through a travel agent negates their compensation rights. This is not the case. Even when you book through a third party, you remain a client of your airline, so you’re covered by the EC-261. Your compensation rights are identical to those that apply to direct bookings. The precise amount of compensation applicable depends on the length of your flight and its destination. Distances of 1500 or less that are delayed by three hours or more come with compensation of 250 Euros. Flight distances of over 3500km that are delayed by four or more hours are due 600 Euros in compensation unless the flight takes place within the EU. The latter comes with a 400 Euro payment. If you’ve booked a package holiday, your rights remain the same. That said, only the party who paid for the ticket can collect compensation, so your agency will need to apply it on your behalf.
Charter airlines and the burden of proof
Charter airlines are held to the new regulations in precisely the same way traditional ones are. The standards are particularly important in this area because these flights are more prone to delays. It doesn’t matter if you use a low-cost airline, book a business trip, or are travelling with children – reduced price tickets are held to the same regulations. Nevertheless, when you apply for compensation, the burden of proof lies with you, so it’s important to hold onto all documents applying to your flight. The contract of carriage and reservation confirmation paperwork are key pieces of evidence, and while your travel agency should store them, it’s advisable to acquire all documents when you book your trip. If your delay requires short-term assistance or rerouting, you might not have the time to collect the necessary paperwork.
A delayed flight can cost you dearly. Those failed business deals and missed weddings are legitimate losses that demand reparation, so don’t be afraid to stand up for your rights. The EC-261 can be confusing, but there is help available. To find out if you have the right to compensation, contact GIVT today.