Explained: What rights do you have if your flight gets cancelled?

explained
Explained: What Rights Do You Have If Your Flight Gets Cancelled? Explained: What Rights Do You Have If Your Flight Gets Cancelled?
Aer Lingus have been forced to cancel numerous flights to and from Dublin Airport due to staff shortages caused by Covid-19. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin
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Kenneth Fox

With more than 30 flights cancelled to and from Dublin Airport on Friday alone, passengers plans have been thrown up in the air leaving many wondering what rights they have to compensation.

Airlines say they are dealing with an increase in Covid-19 cases among staff, leaving them short-staffed and unable to cover certain flights.

So what rights do you have as a consumer if this happens to you? Here is what you need to know:

In what situations are you entitled to compensation?

Passengers have specific consumer rights under European law. You have a right to get assistance from your air carrier, and you may be entitled to compensation in certain situations, these include:

  • Being denied boarding against your will;
  • Your flight is cancelled;
  • Your flight is delayed;
  • You seat is downgraded.

The law applies to all passengers departing from an EU/EEA airport. It also applies to passengers departing from an airport outside the EU/EEA but arriving at an EU/EEA airport on an EU/EEA licensed carrier.

When does the law not apply?

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The law does not apply if you are travelling free of charge or at a fare that is reduced and is not available directly or indirectly to the public.

Tickets purchased under frequent flyer programmes or similar commercial programmes are not considered reduced fare tickets.

The law also does not apply if you do not have a confirmed reservation, relevant document (visa etc), you do not arrive at the boarding gate at good time or if you pose safety or security concerns

When you buy a ticket for air travel, you enter into an agreement with the airline.

One of the terms of this agreement is that you must confirm that you will be ready to take the flight on the date of travel (confirming your reservation) and you must present yourself at check-in to demonstrate that you have a valid ticket and are ready to fly on the date on your ticket.

If you have not confirmed your reservation in time or presented yourself for check-in at the time specified by the airline, the law does not apply. The airline can refuse to allow you to board the aircraft.

If you have been denied access to the aircraft in these circumstances, you are not entitled to any compensation.

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The airline may, however, agree to accommodate you on a later flight (without or without charge) if there is availability.

What are your rights if your flight is cancelled?

If you are denied boarding, or your flight has been cancelled or delayed the airline must provide you with a written notice setting out the rules for compensation and assistance.

You should be offered two free telephone calls, fax messages, or emails. In addition, a sign must be displayed at the check-in area referring to air passenger rights under the law.

If your flights has been cancelled you are entitled to the following: A refund of the cost of your ticket within seven days; or re-routing to your final destination at the earliest opportunity or re-routing at a later date at your convenience.

Compensation when getting a refund

Where a refund of the cost of the ticket is chosen, and you are also entitled to compensation, the following compensation must be paid:

Type of flight Compensation
Flights of 1,500 km or less €250
Flights of over 1,500 km within the EU and
other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km
€400
All other flights €600

Compensation if re-routed

When the choice is re-routing, and you are entitled to compensation, the amount of compensation you are entitled to depends on the length of delay past your original planned arrival time as follows:

Type of flight Delay Compensation
Flights of 1500km or less 2 hours or less €125
Flights of 1500km or less more than 2 hours €250
Flights of over 1,500 km within the EU and
other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km
3 hours or less €200
Flights of over 1,500 km within the EU and
other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km
more than 3 hours €400
All other flights 4 hours or less €300
All other flights more than 4 hours €600

When am I not entitled to compensation?

You are not entitled if you have received at least two weeks notice of the cancellation, you have received between two weeks and seven days’ notice, but have been offered an alternative flight departing no more than two hours before your original departure time and arriving at your final destination less than four hours after your original scheduled time of arrival.

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You are also not entitled to compensation if you have received less than seven days’ notice, but you have been offered an alternative flight departing no more than one hour before your original departure time and arriving at your final destination less than two hours after your original scheduled time of arrival.

Also, If the airline can prove that the cancellation was caused by an extraordinary circumstance which could not have been avoided, even if all reasonable measures had been taken, no compensation is payable.

Examples of extraordinary circumstances may include: Weather conditions, air traffic control restrictions, security risks and industrial action.

What rights do you have if your flight is delayed?

Whether a delayed flight comes within the terms of the law depends upon the distance of the route involved and the length of the delay. The following flights are covered by the law:

Delays of two hours or more in the case of flights of 1500 km or less.

Delays of three hours or more in the case of all flights within the EU of more than 1500 km, and of all other flights between 1500 and 3500 km

Delays of  four hours or more in the case of all other flights.

If your delayed flight is covered by the law, free meals and refreshments must be offered depending on how long the waiting time is.

Hotel accommodation must also be offered free of charge where an overnight stay becomes necessary, as well as transport between the hotel and the airport. You must be offered 2 free telephone calls, fax messages, or emails.

If the flight is delayed at least 5 hours, you must be offered a refund of your ticket instead of flying.

A refund is a full refund of the ticket for the part or parts of the journey you have not made and for the part or parts you already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose to your original travel plan.

When relevant, it also includes a return flight to your first point of departure, at the earliest opportunity.

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