What are your rights if your flight is late or cancelled?

A court in Cluj Napoca, Romania has recently sentenced the low cost airline Blue Air to reimburse 4 passengers for the cost of their plane tickets from Bucharest to Cluj Napoca with Tarom – Romanian Airlines, and to pay 250 EURO per passenger worth of compensations.

The four passengers had bought return tickets for the route Cluj NapocaBucharest (Baneasa airport)Lisbon, departing on February 5 2010 and returning on February 9 2010. The evening before their flight back from Lisbon, they received a text message informing them that their flight from Bucharest to Cluj Napoca had been cancelled. After trying to contact the Blue Air Call Center via telephone and getting no answer, they e-mailed the low cost airline asking to be put on the next Tarom flight to Cluj Napoca. However, upon their arrival in Bucharest the following day, the passengers were not offered any assistance or alternative transportation to Cluj Napoca by the Blue Air representatives (although the EU regulations require it). So they bought Tarom tickets themselves and managed to reach their final destination.

Once in Cluj Napoca, the four passengers filed a complaint with the local Blue Air office, asking the airline to reimburse the Tarom tickets they had bought and to pay 250 Euro per passenger for the last-minute cancellation of their flight. As Blue Air did not respond to their request, they filed a lawsuit, which they won on May 30, 2011. The lowcost airline consequently had to reimburse the cost of the Tarom tickets, to pay 250 Euro per passenger and to pay all the legal fees.

So what exactly are your rights if your flight gets delayed or cancelled?

Regulation 261/2004 of the European Parliament states that the airline is required to:

  • offer you alternative transportation to your final destination, under comparable conditions, at the earliest opportunity or later on, at the passenger’s convenience (if there are available seats), or offer you the reimbursement of the ticket and a flight back to your point of departure.
  • offer you refreshments and/or meals (in proportion to the waiting time), free transportation and accommodation (if it is necessary for you to stay overnight), as well as two telephone calls, fax, telex messages or e-mails.

This applies to all passengers whose flight is delayed or cancelled, or who are denied boarding.

Moreover, the EU regulations stipulate cash compensations for passengers whose flights are cancelled. The amounts of there compensations are:

  1. €250, for a flight of less than 1500 km
  2. €400, for flight within the EU of greater than 1500 km in distance, or any other flight of greater than 1500 km but less than 3500 km in distance
  3. €600, for a flight not within EU of greater than 3500 km in distance.

Where re-routing is offered and results in the passenger arriving within two/three/four hours of the scheduled arrival time for a type 1/2/3 flight, the compensation payable is halved.

So familiarize yourselves with Regulation 261/2004 (see wikipedia) and do demand your rights when you need to do so!

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