Traveling by air is not always smooth sailing. Sometimes your flight is overbooked or you get a delay or, worst of all, it is cancelled all together. Some folks aren’t aware that there is cancelled flight compensation available in those instances under EU law. There are even instances where this is the case even if there has been a replacement flight already put in place.

If a plane never takes off from the tarmac, the airline considers that flight as having been cancelled. Regulation EC 261 states a cancelled flight is defined as, ‘The non-operation of a flight which was previously planned and on which at least one place was reserved’.

There are loads of reasons for cancelled flights such as security threats or bad weather. But, when the airline decides not to take off, this leaves you entitled to compensation for the cancellation according to regulations for the EU under EC 261 understanding that all of the required criteria has been met.

Key Takeaways

  • Passengers are entitled to compensation if their flight is cancelled by the airline, as long as the cancellation meets certain criteria outlined in EU regulation EC 261.
  • Passengers are also entitled to basic essentials and accommodations if their flight is cancelled, including meals, refreshments, and overnight hotel accommodations if necessary.
  • Airlines often claim “extraordinary circumstances” in order to avoid paying compensation for cancelled flights, but the European Court of Justice has ruled that many of these claims are not valid. Passengers may still be entitled to compensation in these cases.

Cancelled Flight Compensation Criteria

If your flight was cancelled through no fault of yours, you are entitled to reimbursement per EC 261 EU regulation if certain criteria has been met:

  • The flight that was cancelled was due to leave Europe via any airline or was due to land at an airline in Europe provided that it is headquartered there.
  • You were notified by the airline 14 days or less prior to the departure of the flight that it was being cancelled.
  • The new arrival time with a replacement flight would be significantly different than your original flight.
  • This cancellation took place within the time frame of the last three years.
  • You have a booking confirmation showing the flight number and the name of the passengers with a confirmed flight reservation.
  • The airline was in control for the reason behind the cancellation whether it be airline strikes, technical difficulty, or operational situation.

When the flight is cancelled, the airline has the opportunity to offer its passengers three options for recovery according to EC 261.

  • At least a partial refund (full refund is preferred) of the original cost of the ticket along with a flight to the departure point if that is something that you will need. This reimbursement needs to be given to you by the airlines within a seven-day time frame.
  • Alternative transport at the earliest possible departure to the place you are traveling.
  • An alternate date of your choice for you to travel to your destination with a new ticket (subject to that date being available).

Other Entitlements With Flight Cancellation Per EC 261

You are entitled to other rights that you are provided when you are stuck at the airport waiting to try to figure out what you’re going to do when your flight is cancelled.

  • The airline is required to provide you with basic essentials that you will need until you can make arrangements as to what you will do since your flight has been cancelled. Since you are kind of stuck there, the airport needs to provide meals for you as well as refreshments. It’s also important that they give you accessibility to a telephone in order to contact transportation to get you from the airport if that is something that you will need. If they are going to put you on another flight perhaps the next day, they will need to provide you with overnight hotel accommodations and take you to and from.
  • If the airline is able to get you on another flight and you happen to get into a higher class than the one that you originally booked, the airline cannot charge you more fees for the class. They do, however, have to compensate you if the new flight puts you in a class that is lesser than the one you had originally booked.
  • The airline has an obligation to inform the passengers about their Cancelled Flight Compensation rights per EC 261 prior to their flight and this is something that is to be displayed in every airport in Europe at the check-in desk.

Regulation EU for EC 261 applies even if the flight you were on was due to leave from outside of Europe, if your point of destination was to be within Europe and you were flying via a European plane, you are covered.

Extraordinary Circumstances

‘Extraordinary Circumstances’ is one of the ways that airlines use in order that they can avoid having to compensate for flight cancellations. This is basically their way of terming that the cancellation was out of their control. They are making the claim that they have taken every reasonable action in order to avoid having to make the cancellation but were not able to do so. Things that fall into this category would typically include:

  • Lightning
  • Emergent medical situations
  • Adverse weather
  • Sabotage and/or terrorism acts

Airlines have the tendency of using ‘technical difficulties’ or ‘operational circumstances’ as what they would consider to be extraordinary circumstances. The EJC or European Court of Justice continuously denounces these as not qualifying under the guidelines of extraordinary circumstances. They also ruled that any strikes brought by airline staff would not be deemed extraordinary circumstances either, meaning that the passengers should anticipate compensation for any cancellations of flights that were relevant to strikes brought on by airline staff.

When You Cancel The Flight

If you decide that you’re not going to take a flight that you booked, this is a varied scenario all together from what happens when the airline cancels. It won’t be an EC 261 offence. The airline will decide according to their policies and procedures and how your particular ticket specifies what you will be allowed. There are instances where a full refund is given and sometimes you will only get taxes and fees. It depends on the airline and your situation.

Please remember, there is a difference between flight cancellation ‘refund’ and flight cancellation ‘compensation’. A refund is going to return the money back to you that you spent on your airplane ticket in full. The compensation will award you money for any kind of loss or suffering that you may have dealt with because of the flight mishap. Two very distinct differences and separate entitlements.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is cancelled flight compensation?

Cancelled flight compensation is a form of financial compensation that airlines are required to pay to passengers whose flights are cancelled.

  • What causes flights to be cancelled?

Flights can be cancelled for various reasons, including bad weather, mechanical issues, crew availability, and other factors outside of the airline’s control.

  • Am I entitled to compensation if my flight is cancelled?

Yes, if your flight is cancelled, you may be entitled to compensation under certain circumstances, such as if the cancellation was within the airline’s control and you were not given adequate notice.

  • How much compensation can I receive for a cancelled flight?

The compensation you can receive for a cancelled flight depends on various factors, such as the distance of your flight and the reason for the cancellation. In the EU, compensation ranges from €250 to €600 per passenger.

  • How do I claim cancelled flight compensation?

To claim cancelled flight compensation, you will need to submit a claim to the airline. You may be required to provide evidence of the cancellation, such as your flight confirmation or boarding pass.