Each year, an estimated 30 million European air passengers deal with flight delays and cancellations. Of that number, only around nine percent know about their right to compensation. In accordance with Regulation EU 261/2004, there are now common rules regarding compensation and assistance to air passengers in the event that they are denied boarding, flight cancellations, and delays of up to 3 or more hours. The regulations set out a series of entitlements to passengers when a flight goes awry through no fault of their own.

You can file a claim for EU261 Compensation if:

  • You were flying into an EU airport on an EU carrier
  • The incident occurred within 6 years
  • You were departing from an EU airport on any airline
  • The airline is still in operation
  • The incident was not due to “extraordinary circumstances.”

As you can see, there is one factor in which you cannot garner compensation: extraordinary circumstances. Below, we’ll explain what constitutes an “Extraordinary Circumstance,” which could prevent you from submitting a claim for compensation to your airline.

What Does EU 261 Define As An “Extraordinary Circumstance?”

In the Regulations set forth by EU 261 an “Extraordinary Circumstance” falls under two factors:

  • Outside the control of the airline
  • Not inherent in the normal activity of the airline

In other words, it is a situation in which the airline has no control and could not prevent due to normal circumstances. It is not within the normal activity of the airline.

What Are Some Examples of “Extraordinary Circumstances?’

If you’re seeking Eu flight compensation some examples of extraordinary circumstances are numerous. Generally, the term itself applies to any number of scenarios where the flight cancellation or delay was caused by something totally out of the ordinary. Examples of extraordinary circumstances include:

  • Security risks
  • Military unrest
  • Acts of terrorism or sabotage
  • Extreme weather conditions
  • Natural disaster
  • Air traffic control strikes
  • Airport security issues
  • Hidden manufacturing defects
  • Bird strikes (as of 2017)

These are things that the airline cannot control nor prevent. Even COVID-19 is considered an extraordinary circumstance. The unfortunate aspect of these circumstances is that airlines can site them without having to provide full details as to how a circumstance is actually extraordinary. Sometimes they will also use refuse to offer details of an extraordinary circumstance in order to frustrate the claims process. However, every airline is obligated to provide details of an extraordinary circumstance when they receive a request from the National Enforcement Body.

What Are Not Considered Extraordinary Circumstances?

Something that you may think fall under the umbrella of extraordinary circumstances” is not actually that extraordinary. If your delay or cancellation was caused by one of the following, you could be entitled to compensation under EU 261. What are not extraordinary circumstances?

  • Any issues with airline staff (IE: understaffing or late crew members)
  • Bad weather that affected a previous flight
  • Denied boarding due to an overbooked flight
  • Technical issues with the aircraft barring those caused by hidden manufacturing defects
  • Lightning strikes
  • Missing Flight Documentation
  • Safety inspections

Without question, the most difficult aspect of a flight delay or cancellation to assess is adverse weather. Certain types of weather may fall under the category of “Extraordinary Circumstances.” These include events such as volcanic ash or a natural disaster. However, bad weather such as a lightning strike, would not be considered an extraordinary circumstance as it is inherent in the normal exercise of the carrier’s activity. Snow, ice, fog, and similar weather events are up for interpretation. If you’re not sure, you could still file a claim and see if what the airline says.