Know your rights when it comes to airlines

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Have you recently had a flight cancelled and want your money back? Or maybe you need to cancel a flight and want to know if you can claim a refund. In this article you will learn your rights when it comes to airline cancellations or disruptions and whether you can claim your money back with or without compensation.

EU Regulation 261/2004 states that if your flight is cancelled you must be offered the following two options:

  • A full refund for all flights on the same booking. This must be reimbursed by the airline within 7 days.
  • An alternative flight to your destination as early as possible or at a later date convenient for you.

You are also entitled to compensation for EU flights if you were notified of the cancellation less than 14 days prior to the departure date or if the flight was cancelled due to issues of the airline such as the following:

  • Airline crew strikes
  • Flight scheduling issues
  • Technical problems

Flights that have been cancelled due to reasons outside of the airline’s control, such as air traffic control strikes and restrictions, will not be compensated.

Article 7 of EU regulation 261/2004 states that each passenger has the right to claim the following amounts in compensation:

  1. 250 euros for flights of up to 1500 kilometres
  2. 400 euros for all flights within the EU of more than 1500 kilometres and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres
  3. 600 euros for all flights not covered in section a) or b).

The distance shall be determined on the basis of the last destination at which the passenger will arrive later than the scheduled time due to being denied boarding or cancellation.

The airline may reduce the compensation referred to in the above sections a), b) and c) by 50 % where, in accordance with Article 8, passengers are offered the possibility of being re-routed to the final destination with a difference in arrival time from that originally scheduled of:

(a) no more than two hours, for all flights with a distance of 1500 kilometres or less, or

(b) no more than three hours, for all EU flights over 1500 kilometres and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres; or

(c) no more than four hours for all flights that do not fall under sections (a) or (b).

What if my flight was to or from outside of the EU? Am I entitled to a refund?

This is where it can get a little confusing, as it will depend on the airline used and where you were flying to or from. However, not to worry, we will break it down for you. The EU regulation EC261 includes all EU member states as well as other special member states such as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, among others.

Here are cases of where you ARE entitled to a refund:

  • Flights within the EU, whether the airline is EU or non-EU.
  • Flights from an EU airport to a non-EU airport, whether the airline is EU or non-EU.
  • Flights from a non-EU airport to an EU airport, ONLY if the airline is an EU airline.
  • Flights outside of the EU, ONLY if the airline is an EU airline.

I want to cancel a flight but will I be able to claim my money back?

As rules can vary depending on the airline through which you booked, it is necessary to check directly with the company. However, if you did not book a refundable ticket it is highly unlikely you will be able to get your money back. Even with a ‘refundable’ ticket, this usually only means that you can change the date of the flight free of charge.

My flight has been cancelled. What do I need to do?

The first thing you need to do is contact your airline or travel agency. You can usually find information about their cancellation policy on their website. If your flight has been cancelled after arriving at the airport then go straight to the airline’s customer support desk. You should also check if you are entitled to vouchers or refunds on food and accommodation expenses due to the cancellation of the flight. Although your rights are protected under EU law, every airline and travel agency will have their own protocol and policy.

My flight has been delayed. Am I entitled to anything?

Depending on how long your flight has been delayed for and your airline’s policy, you may be offered the option of re-routing or, if the delay is over 5 hours, a refund. The times can vary depending on the airline. It’s worth mentioning that if you decide to make alternative travel arrangements (not offered by the airline), unfortunately, under the EU261 law these expenses are not covered so you will need to contact your travel insurance company. If you choose to go on the next available flight offered by the airline or your flight has been delayed overnight, as with cancellations, you may be entitled to vouchers or refunds on food and accommodation and other expenses occurred due to the flight disruption. If you are already at the airport then go to the airline’s customer support desk for assistance. We recommend checking your flight’s live information before making your way to airport in order to avoid lengthy waits.

I have contacted the airline but I am not getting anywhere. What shall I do?

If the airline is making it difficult for you to claim or they will not give you the right compensation or help, you can make an official complaint to the alternative dispute (ADR) scheme. Before doing this, you will need to check that the airline is a member as not all are. Alternatively, if the airline is not a member, you can complain to the corresponding Civil Aviation Authority. You will need to check under what country the airline is registered to know which airline authority to complain to. For UK airlines it is the Civil Authorisation Authority and for Spanish airlines, since the new ruling as of 10th May 2023, you can complain to the Agencia Estatal de Seguridad Aérea.

Should you need assistance of a lawyer representing you on a civil claim, please do not hesitate to contact Pellicer & Heredia on +34 965 480 737 or email us at info@pellicerheredia.com. We can arrange an appointment for you with one of our expert lawyers.

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