Air passengers’ rights

1. General

The notion air passengers’ rights includes in general three categories:

  • air passengers’ rights in case of denied boarding, cancellation of long delays (established by Regulation 261/2004),
  • air passengers’ rights in case of delayed, damaged or lost luggage (Montreal Convention) and
  • rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air (Regulation 1107/2006).

2. Air passengers’ right in the case of denied boarding, cancellation and flight delay

The passengers’ rights in the three situations are:

  • for denied boarding – right to care, right to compensations, right to reimbursement, right to rerouting
  • for flight cancellation – right to care, right to compensations, right to reimbursement, right to rerouting
  • for flight delay – right to care, right to compensations, right to reimbursement

3. Denied boarding

The denied boarding includes the situation where the air operator denies the boarding for a certain flight although the passengers have presented themselves for boarding under the established conditions (have a confirmed reservation on the flight concerned and, present themselves for check-in, as stipulated and at the time indicated in advance and in writing by the air carrier, the tour operator or an authorised travel agent or, if no time is indicated, not later than 45 minutes before the published departure time).

Denied boarding for justified reasons, like health condition, safety requirements, unfit travel documents, represents an exception and does not ensure the provided rights.

In the case of a denied boarding, passengers have the right to receive, free of costs, the following:

  • meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time;
  • hotel accommodation in cases where a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary or where a stay additional to that intended by the passenger becomes necessary;
  • transport between the airport and place of accommodation (hotel or other);
  • two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails.

In case of a denied boarding, passengers can receive a compensation of:

  • EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 kilometres or less;
  • EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres;
  • EUR 600 for all other flights.

The compensation shall be paid in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank orders or bank cheques or, with the signed agreement of the passenger, in travel vouchers and/or other services.

No maximum period until which the compensation must be paid is provided.

Passengers shall be offered the choice between:

  • reimbursement within seven days of the full cost of the ticket at the price at which it was bought, for the part or parts of the journey not made, and for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel plan, together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure, at the earliest opportunity;
  • re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity; or
  • re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at a later date at the passenger’s convenience, subject to availability of seats.

Passengers have the right to compensation even if they receive reimbursement or re-routing.

The operating air carrier may reduce the compensation by 50 % when passengers are offered re-routing to their final destination on an alternative flight, the arrival time of which does not exceed the scheduled arrival time of the flight originally booked

  • by two hours, in respect of all flights of 1500 kilometres or less; or
  • by three hours, in respect of all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres; or
  • by four hours, in respect of all other flights.

4. Flight delay

According the European Court of Justice, a flight is delayed if it is operated in accordance with the original planning and its actual departure time is later than the scheduled departure time.

Passengers must be offered assistance whenever an operating air carrier reasonably expects a flight to be delayed beyond its scheduled time of departure:

  • for two hours or more in the case of flights of 1500 kilometres or less; or
  • for three hours or more in the case of all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres and of all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres; or
  • for four hours or more in the case of all other flights.

In the case of a delayed flight, passengers have the right to receive, free of costs, the following:

  • meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time;
  • hotel accommodation in cases when the reasonably expected time of departure is at least the day after the time of departure previously announced;
  • transport between the airport and place of accommodation (hotel or other);
  • two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails.

When the delay is at least five hours reimbursement within seven days of the full cost of the ticket at the price at which it was bought, for the part or parts of the journey not made, and for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel plan, together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure, at the earliest opportunity.

According the European Court of Justice, passengers whose flights are delayed may ask compensation when they suffer, on account of a flight delay, a loss of time equal to or in excess of three hours, that is, where they reach their final destination three hours or more after the arrival time originally scheduled by the air carrier.

The compensation is of:

  • EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 kilometres or less;
  • EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres;
  • EUR 600 for all other flights.

The compensation shall be paid in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank orders or bank cheques or, with the signed agreement of the passenger, in travel vouchers and/or other services.

No maximum period until which the compensation must be paid is provided.

According the European Court of Justice, passengers cannot ask for compensation if the air carrier can prove that the long delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken, namely circumstances beyond the actual control of the air carrier.

5. Flight cancellation

Cancellation means the non-operation of a flight which was previously planned and on which at least one place was reserved.

According the European Court of Justice, a flight is cancelled when the previously established flight and delayed is transferred onto an alternative flight.

A flight which is delayed, irrespective of the duration of the delay, even if it is long, cannot be regarded as cancelled where the flight is operated in accordance with the air carrier’s original planning.

In the case of a delayed flight, passengers have the right to receive, free of costs, the following:

  • meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time;
  • hotel accommodation in event of re-routing when the reasonably expected time of departure of the new flight is at least the day after the departure as it was planned for the cancelled flight;
  • transport between the airport and place of accommodation (hotel or other);
  • two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails.

In case of a cancelled flight, passengers can receive a compensation of:

  • EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 kilometres or less;
  • EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres;
  • EUR 600 for all other flights.

The compensation shall be paid in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank orders or bank cheques or, with the signed agreement of the passenger, in travel vouchers and/or other services.

No maximum period until which the compensation must be paid is provided.

Passengers cannot receive compensation in the following situations:

  • they are informed of the cancellation at least two weeks before the scheduled time of departure; or
  • they are informed of the cancellation between two weeks and seven days before the scheduled time of departure and are offered re-routing, allowing them to depart no more than two hours before the scheduled time of departure and to reach their final destination less than four hours after the scheduled time of arrival; or
  • they are informed of the cancellation less than seven days before the scheduled time of departure and are offered re-routing, allowing them to depart no more than one hour before the scheduled time of departure and to reach their final destination less than two hours after the scheduled time of arrival;
  • if an operating air carrier can prove that the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

Passengers shall be offered the choice between:

  • reimbursement within seven days of the full cost of the ticket at the price at which it was bought, for the part or parts of the journey not made, and for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel plan, together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure, at the earliest opportunity;
  • re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity; or
  • re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at a later date at the passenger’s convenience, subject to availability of seats.

Passengers have the right to compensation even if they receive reimbursement or re-routing.

The operating air carrier may reduce the compensation by 50 % when passengers are offered re-routing to their final destination on an alternative flight, the arrival time of which does not exceed the scheduled arrival time of the flight originally booked

  • by two hours, in respect of all flights of 1500 kilometres or less; or
  • by three hours, in respect of all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres; or
  • by four hours, in respect of all other flights.

6. Extraordinary circumstances

Extraordinary circumstances are events that, by their nature or origin, are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned and are beyond its actual control and cannot be avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

The extraordinary character of an event is analysed based on the circumstances of its production in each case.

The European Court of Justice has established that a technical problem in an aircraft which leads to the cancellation or delay of a flight is not covered by the concept of extraordinary circumstances within the meaning of that provision, unless that problem stems from events which, by their nature or origin, are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned and are beyond its actual control.

7. Passengers rights in case of delayed, damaged or lost luggage

Regulation 889/2002 of the European Parliament and the Council obliges the community air operators to apply the Montreal Convention of 1999 for the air transport of passengers and goods.

Passengers must fill in and make a complaint immediately regarding the delayed luggage (Property Irregularity Report – PIR) to the specialized service inside the airport. A copy of this document, having a registration number must be kept by the passenger.

After the complaint is made, the air operator must be informed in a period of maximum 7 days.

If the transporter acknowledges the loss of a registered luggage or a registered luggage does not arrive at its destination in 21 days from the moment it should have arrived, the passenger can ask for compensation.

The Montreal Convention establishes the air operator must answer for damages suffered by the passengers if the luggage is damaged or delayed.

Unfortunately, the Convention does not establish a procedure to calculate the damages, but only a liability limit for the transporter of maximum 1000 SDR (Special Drawing Rights), almost 1140 EUR.

In practice, the air operator is the one establishing the value of compensation, in principle based on the documents sent by the passengers.

If the luggage is delayed, air operators can either give passengers a certain amount of money for strictly necessary products (hygiene and personal care etc.), or they reimburse to the passengers the amount they paid for such products, on the basis of documents sent with the complaint.

If the passengers are not satisfied with the value of the compensation and any attempt to solve amicably or through ADR the problem has failed, they can go to court who can assess the damage they’ve suffered.

Neither in the case of a lost luggage, as in the case of damaged or delayed luggage, there is not a procedure to calculate the damages, but only a liability limit for the transporter of maximum 1000 SDR (Special Drawing Rights), almost 1140 EUR.

If the transporter has acknowledged the loss of the luggage of the luggage has not arrived at its destination in 21 days, passengers can ask for compensation. They must send to the air operator a request for compensation along with the following documents: PIR (Property Irregularity Report), flight tickets, boarding passes, a list of the objects from the luggage and the proving documents for these.

In practice, air operators ask passengers whose luggage has been lost to prove the value of the objects in the luggage and of the strict necessity objects bought to replace those in the luggage. The compensation is equal, in this case, to the proven value without going over the 1000 SDR limit. If the passenger cannot prove the value of the objects, the air operators usually give a compensation on the basis of the luggage’s weight, according their own rules (19-20EUR/kg).

If the passengers are not satisfied with the value of the compensation and any attempt to solve amicably or through ADR the problem has failed, they can go to court who can assess the damage they’ve suffered.

8. The rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when traveling by air

Disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility have the following rights:

  • the right not to be refused for carriage on the grounds of disability or of reduced mobility;
  • the right to free assistance in the airport and the plane.

9. The right not to be refused for carriage on the grounds of disability or of reduced mobility

An air carrier or its agent or a tour operator shall not refuse, on the grounds of disability or of reduced mobility:

  • to accept a reservation for a flight;
  • to embark a disabled person or a person with reduced mobility at such an airport, provided that the person concerned has a valid ticket and reservation.

An air carrier or its agent or a tour operator may refuse, on the grounds of disability or of reduced mobility, to accept a reservation from or to embark a disabled person or a person with reduced mobility:

  • in order to meet applicable safety requirements established by international, Community or national law or in order to meet safety requirements established by the authority that issued the air operator’s certificate to the air carrier concerned;
  • if the size of the aircraft or its doors makes the embarkation or carriage of that disabled person or person with reduced mobility physically impossible.

The disabled person or person with reduced mobility shall be informed immediately of the reasons of refusal. On request, an air carrier, its agent or a tour operator shall communicate these reasons in writing to the disabled person or person with reduced mobility, within five working days of the request.

he air carrier, its agent or the tour operator shall make reasonable efforts to propose an acceptable alternative to the person in question..

A disabled person or a person with reduced mobility who has been denied embarkation on the grounds of his or her disability or reduced mobility and any person accompanying this person shall be offered the right to choose between:

  • reimbursement within seven days of the full cost of the ticket at the price at which it was bought, for the part or parts of the journey not made, and for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel plan, together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure, at the earliest opportunity;
  • re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity; or
  • re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at a later date at the passenger’s convenience, subject to availability of seats.

10. Right to free assistance

The notification regarding a special request for assistance must be sent to the air carrier, its agent or a tour operator with at least 48 hours before the scheduled depart hour.

Assistance under the responsibility of the managing bodies of airports:

  • communicate their arrival at an airport and their request for assistance at the designated points inside and outside terminal buildings,
  • move from a designated point to the check-in counter,
  • check-in and register baggage,
  • proceed from the check-in counter to the aircraft, with completion of emigration, customs and security procedures,
  • board the aircraft, with the provision of lifts, wheelchairs or other assistance needed, as appropriate,
  • proceed from the aircraft door to their seats,
  • store and retrieve baggage on the aircraft,
  • proceed from their seats to the aircraft door,
  • disembark from the aircraft, with the provision of lifts, wheelchairs or other assistance needed, as appropriate,
  • proceed from the aircraft to the baggage hall and retrieve baggage, with completion of immigration and customs procedures,
  • proceed from the baggage hall to a designated point,
  • reach connecting flights when in transit, with assistance on the air and land sides and within and between terminals as needed,
  • move to the toilet facilities if required,
  • ground handling of all necessary mobility equipment, including equipment such as electric wheelchairs subject to advance warning of 48 hours and to possible limitations of space on board the aircraft, and subject to the application of relevant legislation concerning dangerous goods,
  • temporary replacement of damaged or lost mobility equipment, albeit not necessarily on a like‐for‐like basis,
  • ground handling of recognised assistance dogs, when relevant,
  • communication of information needed to take flights in accessible form.

Where a disabled person or person with reduced mobility is assisted by an accompanying person, this person must, if requested, be allowed to provide the necessary assistance in the airport and with embarking and disembarking.

The notification regarding a special request for assistance must be sent to the air carrier, its agent or a tour operator with at least 48 hours before the scheduled depart hour.

Assistance by air carriers includes:

  • carriage of recognised assistance dogs in the cabin, subject to national regulations,
  • in addition to medical equipment, transport of up to two pieces of mobility equipment per disabled person or person with reduced mobility, including electric wheelchairs (subject to advance warning of 48 hours and to possible limitations of space on board the aircraft, and subject to the application of relevant legislation concerning dangerous goods,
  • communication of essential information concerning a flight in accessible formats,
  • the making of all reasonable efforts to arrange seating to meet the needs of individuals with disability or reduced mobility on request and subject to safety requirements and availability,
  • assistance in moving to toilet facilities if required.

Where a disabled person or person with reduced mobility is assisted by an accompanying person, the air carrier will make all reasonable efforts to give such person a seat next to the disabled person or person with reduced mobility.