The current ever-increasing air transportation of passengers, either for leisure or business purposes, is automatically bringing a higher level of claims for compensation and disputes by passengers against airlines in relation to flight delays and denied boarding.
Issued back in 2004, Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, establishes common rules and minimum rights on the compensation and assistance which an airline is bound to offer to its passengers in the event of a cancellation or long delay of flights and for denied boarding against the passengers will. This regulation has been enacted on the agreement by the aviation community that such occurrences causes serious trouble and inconvenience to passengers. These regulations are applicable in respect of flights departing from an airport of an EU member state and flights operated by an EU air carrier departing from an airport of a non-EU country to an airport in the EU (unless the passenger receives benefits, compensation or assistance in that non-EU country).
As a practice an airline may overbook a scheduled flight. This is either designed to automatically fill the empty seats that no-show passengers leave behind or an error by the ticketing personnel of the airline. Before the airline denies boarding to a passenger however, they will call for volunteers to surrender their reservations, in return for benefits and assistance mentioned further below. If an insufficient number of volunteers comes forward, and airline can then deny boarding to passengers against their will. For the purposes of this regulation, “Denied Boarding” means refusal to carry passengers on a flight, although they have presented themselves for boarding (except where there are reasonable grounds to deny them boarding, such as reasons of health, safety or security, or inadequate travel documentation) with the following conditions:-
- Passengers have a confirmed reservation on the flight concerned and present themselves for check-in, except in the case of cancellation, as stipulated and at the time indicated in advance and in writing (including nowadays by electronic means) 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; or
- Passengers have been transferred by an air carrier or tour operator from the flight for which they held a reservation to another flight, irrespective of the reason.
In case of passenger’s that voluntarily surrenders their reservation they have a right for a 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 also for the parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel plan. Also, in case relevant, the passenger is entitled for a return flight to the first point of departure, at the earliest opportunity or a re-routing to their final destination at the earliest opportunity or re-routing, to their final destination at a later date at the passenger’s convenience.
When an operating air carrier offers a passenger a flight to an airport alternative to that for which the booking was made, in the case where a town, city or region is served by several airports, the operating air carrier shall bear the cost of transferring the passenger from that alternative airport either to that for which the booking was made, or to another close-by destination agreed with the passenger. Other benefits may be agreed between the passenger and the airline therefore in all instance’s communication between the passenger and the airline is required.
Meantime passengers that are denied boarding against their will are entitled for compensation, reimbursement or re-routing and also right for assistance at the airport/location. Passengers shall receive a monetary compensation allocated by a stipulated table of fees based on the distance of the flight being denied. The distance is determined basis the last destination at which the denial of boarding or cancellation will delay the passenger’s arrival after the scheduled time. Further to this a passenger is to be offered free of charge meals and refreshments, which are to be reasonable in relation to the waiting time and also hotel accommodation in cases where a stay of one or more nights or where a stay additional to that intended by the passenger becomes necessary. Transportation between the airport and the place of accommodation / hotel is also to be provided together with some type of means of communication.
A delay of a flight is also another disruption to passengers. The EU regulation distinguished delays by these variables:-
- delay of two hours or more in the case of flights of 1500 kilometres or less; or
- delay of 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
- delay of four hours or more in the case of all flights not falling under (a) or (b)
In terms of remedies an airline is to provide free of charge meals and refreshments together with some basic means of communication in all cases of delays mention above. When the expected time of departure is at least the day after the time of departure previously announced an airline has to offer also hotel accommodation together with the necessary transportation. In addition in case the delay is at least of five hours, the passengers are entitled for a reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket at the price at which it was bought, for the parts of the journey not made including also for the parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose or a return flight to the first point of departure, at the earliest opportunity.
To find out more, please contact Mr. Joseph Fenech