A friend of mine and her family had a long delay on their return from Amsterdam – and they got a refund from the airline of 3,000 Euro for the five of them! That was welcome compensation for the frustrating delay at the end of a wonderful vacation – and a nice contribution to the vacation fund! Know your rights and get the refund you deserve if your flight from Europe is delayed. Read on to find out if your flight qualifies!
Many people make fun of the European Union for all the regulation it has released over the years. There are a lot of consumer rights that are among the regulation, like the traveler’s rights, and I’m sure glad they set an example for consumer protection, I wish was followed in the US, Asia and the Middle East. I’m sure the people who were stuck on their Etihad planes on the tarmac in the UAE for more than 12 hours, with one person dying on the delayed flight to Europe and passengers to San Francisco stuck on their flights for 28 hours, running out of food and water would agree (news report here).
The EU has put regulation 261/2004 in place that applies to all flights operated by any airline from any EU airport and flights to an EU airport operated by any EU airline, regardless of citizenship or residence. So, even a visitor from the US flying on Delta or Etihad is eligible, regardless of their respective local regulation.
If you are denied boarding or your flight is cancelled or overbooked, you are entitled to either alternative transport or a full refund. You are also entitled to refreshments, meals and communication, and, if necessary, an overnight stay.
In addition, if you are denied boarding, your flight is cancelled or arrives more than 2-4 hours late on arrival at the final destination stated on your ticket, you are entitled to compensation depending on destination and distance:
- 2h or more, 1,500 km or less, destination within EU – €250
- 3h or more, over 1,500 km within EU or 1,500 – 3,000, destination outside EU – €400
- 4h or more, over 3,500 km, destination outside EU – €600
Your airline must inform you about your rights and the reason for being denied boarding, or any cancellations or long delays! If you have encountered a delay like above, you can submit a claim form to your airline. If that doesn’t work, you can complain to the responsible EU body, based on country of departure. Using the official claim form is probably a good start, as it shows the airline that you know your rights and are not just fishing for some points or money. In the US, you can also involve consumer advocates, if you don’t make any progress. There are a few independent organizations who will pursue your claims on a contingency fee basis – no win, no fee, for example refund me
Obviously, the airlines have not been happy about this and have tried to evade paying the compensation. The EU issued some clarification later, for example that arrival is at least one door opening at the gate (not wheels down on landing). The “extraordinary circumstances” mentioned in the legislation DO NOT include technical issues or maintenance of the airline (which has been used frequently as an excuse not to pay. An extraordinary circumstance was the volcanic eruption that wrecked havoc on European air travel in 2010. You can find more details on this regulation here and here.
The refund claim for my friend was fairly painless, so I hope it goes well for you, too! If you think you have a claim and have questions, or had success claiming your refund, please comment below! Good luck with your refund. Let’s hope this regulation will inspire similar ones around the world and ultimately leads to better airline operations and more customer friendly travel for all of us!