Refunds and Compensation for Cancelled Flights

What rights do passengers have when a flight is cancelled because of extraordinary circumstances?

Under EC Regulation No. 261/ 2004 – in the event of a flight cancellation passengers must  be offered :

  • …care and assistance free of charge while waiting for their rerouted flight– specifically, meals and refreshments in reasonable relation to the waiting time, hotel accommodation in cases where an overnight stay becomes necessary, transport between the airport and place of accommodation and two telephone calls, emails, faxes or telexes.
  • An alternative flight at the earliest opportunity or by comparable transport to the final destination.
  • A full refund of the ticket 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 to the passenger’s original travel plan or when relevant a return flight to the first point of departure, at the earliest opportunity.

When a city, town or region is served by several airports, a carrier may offer a flight to an alternative airport to that originally booked. The carrier is then obliged to bear the cost of transferring the passenger to the airport to that which the booking was made or to another close-by destination agreed with the passenger.

In reality, many airlines do not provide information about refunds or free meals as a matter of course.  If you do incur any expenses as a result of the cancellation –  keep all receipts and submit a claim in writing, enclosing copies of all the receipts directly to the airline in question. If the airline does not respond within ten working days – passengers based in Ireland should make a complaint to the Commission for Aviation Regulation.

In cases of cancellation that is not due to extraordinary circumstances – airlines are supposed to pay compensation (as well as the measures outlined above). The amounts due depend on the distance of the journey :

* 1500km or less the amount payable is €250

* 1500km – 3500km and all EU flights over 3500km the amount payable is €400

* 3500km or more the amount payable is €600.

The flight must have departed from an EU airport, operating by any airline, or it must be arriving into an EU airport and be operated by an EU airline. The ‘EU airport’ also includes the following countries; Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. It also needs to have been at least three hours late arriving at your destination to be eligible for compensation

Many airlines will argue that many cancellations are due to extraordinary circumstances to try and avoid this compensation.