New passenger rights

news: New passenger rights

REGULATION (EC) 261/2004 came into force on February 17 2005, giving more extensive rights to air travel passengers.

Which situations are covered?

This regulation establishes common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of being denied boarding an aircraft and of cancellation or long delays to flights. The new regulation will extend the rights of air passengers to all kinds of flights, covering scheduled and non-scheduled, domestic and charter flights, including air transport which forms part of a package holiday.

It, therefore, establishes minimum rights for passengers when:

• They are denied boarding

• Their flight is cancelled

• Their flight is delayed

The regulation applies to passengers departing from an airport located in the territory of a member state, as well as to passengers departing from an airport located in a third country to an airport situated in the territory of a member state.

The regulation does not apply to passengers travelling free of charge or at a reduced fare, which is not available directly or indirectly to the general public. It does, however, include tickets issued under frequent flyer programmes.

The operating air carrier is now under an obligation to ensure that a notice is placed at the check-in counter with the following message:

“If you are denied boarding or your flight is cancelled or delayed for at least two hours, ask at the check-in counter or boarding gate for the text stating your rights, particularly with regard to compensation and assistance.”

Denied boarding

The operating air carrier must first ask for volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for benefits and, only if an insufficient number of volunteers appear, the operating air carrier may deny boarding to passengers, against their will.

The affected passengers are then entitled to immediate compensation in the following terms:

• 250 euros for all flights of 1,500km or less

• 400 euros for all intra-community flights over 1,500km and all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kms

• 600 euros for all other flights

There is also a right of reimbursement (within seven days) or re-routing (at the earliest opportunity).

The operating air carrier must also offer the passengers, free of charge:

• Meals and refreshments, a reasonable allowance in relation to the delay

• Hotel accommodation if a stay of one or more nights, or additional to that intended by the passenger, becomes necessary

•Transport between the airport and place of accommodation

In addition, passengers will be offered two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or emails.


In case of cancellation of a flight, the passengers have the right to be reimbursed or re-routed. The passenger will also be entitled to compensation under the terms referred to above unless:

• The passenger has been informed of the cancellation at least two weeks before the departure date; or

• They are informed between seven days and two weeks from departure date and offered a choice of re-routing, allowing them to arrive at their destination less than four hours after the scheduled time of arrival; or

•They are informed less than seven days from their departure date and offered re-routing allowing them to arrive at their destination less than two hours after the scheduled time of arrival.

The operating air carrier is not obliged to pay compensation if they can prove that the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances that could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.


The regulation covers the following delays:

• Two hours or more for flights of 1,500kms or less

• Three hours or more for intra-community flights of more than 1,500kms or other flights between 1,500 and 3,500kms;

• Four hours or more for all other flights

In these cases, the passengers will be entitled to meals and refreshments, as well as two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or emails. If the departure is the day after, the passengers will also have the right to hotel accommodation and transport to and from the airport. If the delay is more than five hours, passengers are entitled to be reimbursed.

• Vicki Rodrigues can be contacted via email [email protected]