Flying can be stressful enough as it is, and it’s made even worse when you face long delays, canceled flights, and more. Thankfully, if you’re traveling in the European Union, you may be eligible for compensation for your inconvenience. This is one perk of traveling in Europe thanks to EC261/2004.
What is European Regulation EC261/2004?
Passenger rights are a top priority when traveling in Europe, and these don’t apply just to European Union citizens. Instead, anyone who travels in Europe could be eligible for financial compensation if there’s an issue with their flight. So what exactly is European Regulation EC261/2004, and how can you use it to get financial restitution?
EC261/2004 is a regulation that entitles passengers to receive financial compensation if they were denied boarding, their flight was canceled or delayed, and more. As long as the circumstances weren’t outside the airline’s control, you can file a claim to receive restitution for your inconvenience.
There are stipulations on EC261/2004, so not every delay is eligible for compensation. The following are some of the most common claims, but you can always check in with a flight compensation company to see if you have a case.
- Flights that are delayed more than three hours
- Flights that are canceled less than 14 days in advance
- If you are denied boarding because of overbooking or other cases that the airline is responsible for.
If you have a question on whether you qualify, it never hurts to check. Airlines won’t naturally credit you, so you have to seek it out.
These rules apply for all passengers who are leaving from an airport that’s in the European Union, so most continental flights will be eligible. Sometimes, it can also apply if you’re flying into Europe from destinations outside the EU, though it varies on a case by case basis.
Ultimately, the airline is being held accountable for staying on time to prevent unnecessary delays. These settlements cut into their profits, so it’s in their best interest to avoid costly delays. You will not have a case if you miss your flight or are denied boarding because you’re late, so keep in mind the circumstances matter.
What Compensation Can I Get?
The compensation you’re entitled to is a flat rate depending on how far your trip is, but remember, your flight is to be going either in or out of the European Union to qualify.
Flight Compensation Breakdown
Here’s a general breakdown of what you may be entitled to when you file a claim, though keep in mind the final amount you receive is dependent on a lot of different factors, including how far you’re traveling, the time you’re delayed, and more.
- Flights under 1,500 km: €250.
- Flights within the EU more than 1,500 km: €400
- Flights in or out of the EU between 1,500 km and 3,500 km: €400
- Flights in or out of the EU more than 3,500 km: €600
This is the baseline of what you may be eligible to receive on top of additional flight accommodation, so it’s in your best interest to file a claim.
Flight Compensation Types
Three of the most common types of compensation you’ll receive under EC261/2004 are due to denied boarding, flight cancellation, and delays.
- If you are denied boarding because your flight is overbooked or for any other reason outside of your control, you may be entitled to receive €250-€600 for your inconvenience.
- If your flight is canceled, you may be able to file a claim up to €600. Flights up to three years old can qualify, but flights that were cancelled because of COVID-19 are not eligible.
- If your flight is delayed three hours or more, you may be eligible to receive up to €600 in compensation. This includes if your flight arrives more than 3 hours late, as long as you checked in on time.
You are entitled to receive this compensation under EC261/2004, but the airlines won’t volunteer it until you ask – and maybe even then they’ll try to fight it.
Which Flights Are Covered by EC261/2004?
Unfortunately, not all flights are covered by EC261/2004, so it’s important to be aware of the stipulations of this regulation so you know your rights. Generally speaking, most flights into Europe will be covered, including those that are not a part of the European Union. There are some exceptions.
EU Air Carriers
As long as your flight has a touch-point within the European Union, you should be covered under EC261/2004. This includes:
- Flights inside the EU
- Flights inside the EU to outside the EU
- Flights from outside the EU to inside the EU
Remember, if your airline is based in the European Union and one of your departure or destination is also within the EU, you are entitled of compensation up to €600. This applies to you even if you’re not an EU citizen, so don’t hesitate to make that claim.
EC261/2004 gets a little trickier when you’re talking about airlines that are not based in the European Union. Not all issues will be covered, even if they are in the airline’s control.
You will be covered if you’re flying within the EU or from inside the EU to outside the EU. You will not be covered if your flight originates outside the EU or if you’re flying outside the EU altogether.
So What Flights Are Covered?
The flights that are covered under EC261/2004 vary, but if you are traveling within the EU, regardless of your carrier type, you should be safe. However, keep in mind the amount of compensation you’re entitled to will vary, and the maximum you could receive is €600.
If your flight has a connection in the EU, you may be eligible for compensation, so if you are traveling at any point within the EU, it is worth filing a claim to recoup your losses.
Which Flights Are NOT Covered by EC261/2004?
EC261/2004 is very clearly worded that your issue has to be inside the airline’s control to be entitled to compensation. It also has to occur within the EU at some point throughout the duration of your trip for the regulation to apply.
Flights that are outside the EU, even if you have an EU-based carrier, are not eligible, nor are flights that are from outside the EU to inside the EU if you are using non-EU-based carriers. There may be an exception if your flight is an EU-based carrier and you have a connection within the EU.
If you face any of these circumstances while flying, you will not be entitled to compensation. All issues have to be within their airline’s control for you to be reimbursed.
- Airport or air traffic control strikes
- Political unrest
- Security risks
As long as their airline shows they have taken reasonable measures to prevent these issues, they will not be responsible. However, the onus is on the airline to prove, so it doesn’t hurt to file a claim. Lawmakers continue to review what constitutes extraordinary circumstances, so this list is subject to change.
What Are My EC261/2004 Rights in European Flights?
The biggest benefit of EC261/2004 is that it entitles you to financial compensation for delays, cancellations, and denied boardings; however, that’s not the only thing it guarantees. It also helps you receive fair treatment from the airlines.
As you check in, keep an eye out for information in EC261/2004 as long as you’re in the EU. Every airline operating within the EU is required by law to display this regulation to help you understand your rights. They may not have to tell you about it until you ask, but once you understand what you are entitled to, it can make negotiation much easier. Keep in mind that if you accept alternative accommodations or vouchers, it may disqualify you from making a claim against EC261/04.
If your delay is more than five hours, you don’t just have to wait to file a claim. You are entitled to a full or partial refund and a return flight back to where you left if applicable. As you wait, the airline is required to care for you with basic essentials, including:
- Meals and refreshments
- Communications, including calls, faxes, and emails.
- Overnight accommodation, where applicable
- Transportation, where applicable.
How much you’re entitled to depends on how long your delay is.
- All flights 1,500 km or less: 2 hours or more
- Internal EU flights more than 1,500 km: 3 hours or more
- Non-internal EU flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km: 3 hours or more
- Non-internal EU flights more than 3,500 km: 4 hours or more
Just because you are entitled to at least €600 does not mean that’s all you can claim. If you feel you are entitled to further compensation for your distress, you can contact their customer service. You may have waived your right if you voluntarily surrendered your reservation.
Calculate Your Disrupted Flight Compensation
What Are My EC261/2004 Rights in International Flights?
EC261/2004 doesn’t just cover EU to EU flights, so if you’re flying internationally, you may still be entitled to compensation, as long as your flight has a touchpoint within the European Union.
- If your airline is based in the EU, you’ll be covered under most circumstances.
- If your airline is based outside of the EU, you will be covered as long as your flight originates in the EU.
- Sometimes, your flight will be covered if it connects in the EU.
Because there are always exceptions to the rule, you can always file a claim. You lose no money by trying.
European Regulation EC261/2004 Time Limit to File a Claim
You have to file a claim in a timely manner under EC261/2004, though the amount varies from country to country. Keep in mind that you need to file a claim in the country that the airline is based, not your country of nationality, the country you departed, or the country you arrived in. Filing in the wrong country could cause a delay in your compensation, so it’s important to understand where the airline is based.
Depending on the country, you can make claims between 1 to 10 years, though there are some exceptions to the rule.
|Czech Republic*||3 years|
|Germany **||3 years|
|United Kingdom||6 years|
Refunds & Flight Ticket Replacements
When you’re facing delays and cancellations, it can be tempting to accept what the airline is giving you. However, if you voluntarily surrender your ticket, you may relinquish your rights to further compensation. If you intend to file a claim at a later date, you should never voluntarily accept to be bumped from your flight.
If there are delays or cancellations or if you have been denied boarding due to overbooking, you can request a refund of your fare and a return flight to your original point of departure if you have a connecting flight. You have options.
How to Make Your EC261/2004 Claim?
Many people don’t file claims, allowing the airlines to get away with unnecessary delays. Don’t be a part of the statistics. You deserve to be compensated for your inconvenience under EU law.
The first way you can do this is by filing a claim yourself. Navigate to your airline carrier to start the process, and make sure you have your booking reference handy. You’ll need to enter your information and wait to hear back. If you weren’t able to find form, you can download it here. In some cases, airlines will fight the claim, so you may be forced to go to court. In most cases, they will settle, but it’s still a lengthy process.
There are also specialized organizations you can partner with, like flight compensation companies. They know EC261/2004 well, and after you enter your information, they will fight the airline on your behalf. They simply take a flat fee out of your winnings, and you owe them nothing if you lose. If the case goes to court, the litigation fees are often included in the fee. They do all the work for you. All you have to do is enjoy the settlement once it comes.
Either option will help you get the money you deserve under EC261/2004. Just make sure you file a claim within the claim window.
EC261/2004 is a powerful regulation that’s meant to advocate for you. Many airline delays are preventable, and by filing claims, you are holding them accountable. Your time is valuable, so don’t hesitate to claim the compensation you deserve. As long as you’re flying in the EU, you could receive up to €600.