Your airline rights – cheap tickets or not so cheap?!
In February 2005 the European Union introduced new rules on compensation for problems on flights, not dissimilar to America’s Montreal Convention that came into force in 2004.
The European regulations are supported and monitored by the Air Transport Users’ Council (AUC), but airlines plan to challenge the rules in the European Court of justice in late 2005.
The rules are complex but here’s a summary of the current situation:
– if there’s a problem, whether it’s a delay, cancellation or you’ve been bumped off a flight due to overbooking, complain immediately and demand written details of your rights.
If you make a claim in writing the airline should pay you by cheque within a week. If not, send your correspondence on to AUC at 45-59, Kingsway, London WC2B 6TE. If they believe the airline is at fault they will pass your information on to the Civil Aviation Authority who have the power to fine airlines heavily.
– delays: compensation depends on the length of delay and the length of flight but, for example, a 1, 500km flight delayed by two hours should result in meals, refreshments and a couple of free phone calls/emails.
For an airline flight delayed by more than five hours you should receive all the above and may receive full refund for the cost of the ticket if you choose to give up on the flight.
If the airport closes before your delayed flight can leave the airline must pay for a hotel room and transfer to it.
– cancellations: if the airline can show that the cancellation was caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances which could not be avoided’ then you get nothing. Circumstances could be bad weather, airport strikes (though not the airline staff), security alerts and traffic control difficulties.
If you have to wait, for example two hours, and before your 1, 500km (930 miles) flight is cancelled you will be entitled to a full refund and £170. The rate rises with length of time and length of wait.
– bumped: if the flight is overbooked and you cannot board, there are special rules covering overbooked flights from airports in the European Union. The rules also apply to flights from airports outside the European Union, but flying into a European Union airport, on a European Union airline. These rules apply only if you were not allowed to board the flight, not if you volunteered to take a different flight. Under these rules you can get compensation for the overbooking, as long as you meet certain conditions. You must have a valid ticket, which has been confirmed for the overbooked flight, and you must have checked in by the deadline given to you by the airline.
As long as you meet all these conditions you will be entitled to:
– a full refund of your ticket and a free return flight to your first point of departure, if you need it; or. . .
– another flight as soon as possible or at a later date of your choice.
You will also be entitled to:
– compensation. The amount you will get depends on the length of your flight and how late you are in getting to your final destination.
– two telephone phone calls, or emails, or telexes or faxes.
– reasonable meals and refreshments if you have to wait for a later flight.
– hotel accommodation if you are delayed overnight.
If your flight is overbooked the airline should give you a form stating what compensation is available.
If the rules applying to EU flights do not apply, you may still be able to get compensation for overbooking. You will need to check with your airline whether any compensation is available for your particular circumstances.
For more information about overbooking on all flights, see the Air Travel Advice section on the Air Transport Users Council website.
Consumer Protection Information on what to do in the event of overbooked hotels, failed travel services and more.