Europe’s airline rule on delayed flights — passengers get paid for flight lateness

by Charlie Leocha on October 25, 2012


The European Union courts have found in favor of passengers in the latest attempts by Lufthansa and British Airways to avoid paying compensation for delayed flights.

In the U.S. we do not have such protections; however, in Europe these protections apply to most airlines flying within, from or to the European Union. Travelers should be aware of their rights on the other side of the ocean.

If travelers are faced with delays, they should seek compensation, especially when they are flying on code-share flights. There are still some who hold that US flights are not subject to these rules, however, code-shares when either the carrier with the flight number designation or the carrier operating the aircraft probably fall under these regulations.

Travelers should be compensated for delays of more than three hours, the European Union Court of Justice ruled. Airlines should begin paying up for delayed requests for compensation.

Here is a chart clearly demonstrating the rules and compensation provided by E.U. rules.

Here is the explanation from Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority.

How long does my flight need to be delayed before I can expect to get assistance?

If your flight length is between 0 and 1,500km, for example Manchester to Frankfurt, you will need to be delayed more than two hours.

If your flight length is between 1500 and 3500km, for example Newcastle to Majorca, you will need to be delayed more than three hours.

If your flight length is more than 3500km, for example London to Delhi, you will need to be delayed more than four hours.

If you are delayed overnight and your airline cannot or will not arrange a hotel, you can make your own arrangements and claim a refund from your airline later. Do not spend more than is reasonable and keep your receipts. What is reasonable will depend on the availability of hotels, but you are unlikely to be fully refunded for 5 star hotels or any alcohol, for example. Try to talk to someone from your airline or check their website before you do this and keep note of any conversations.

These rights apply to all flights from European airports. These rights also apply to all flights to European airports, from outside of the EU, on an EU airline.

Airlines are exempt from these rules in exceptional circumstances when the delay is outside of their control. However, delays caused by labor disputes that result in strikes are covered, according to EU court rulings.

It is worth your time to make sure you follow up with the aviation authorities in the country where you experienced your delay.

Is such a law coming to the U.S. to help American passengers? Don’t bet on it.

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  • Anonymous

    In the bigger picture, it probably doesn’t matter to the airlines. The degree to which airlines are required to make payments to passengers can be predicted quite accurately in the long run (just as casinos can predict quite accurately the bigger picture of their edge in what at a low level are random events). As long as all the competitors are subject to the same rules, the cost of having to comply with having to make such payments will simply be added to the price of tickets. In other words, if there’s a 10 percent chance that an event will occur which would require the airline to make a payment of $100, then the airlines will simply raise ticket prices by $10. To them, it is wash. To the passengers, it is a form of insurance, that their ticket prices will be higher, but if certain events occur, then they’ll get a payment from the airline.

  • Anonymous

    I am still waiting for LX to get back to me on our many houred delayed flight. You have to contact the carrier first before you move forward and so I sit and wait. Not sure this is a fool proof ruling, especially for those of us in other countries. Time will tell…

  • Anonymous

    I agree. The airlines will pass on this cost (an insurance) to the consumer. So we will end up subsidizing those victims who are smart enough to go through the complaint process and win some money.

  • Anonymous

    Have they even bothered to acknowledge your request or claim?
    Keep us informed.

  • Anonymous

    No, not yet. I had to do it online and they did send me an email that they received the request and are investigating it.

  • Anonymous

    Were you on LX38 last 23SEP?

  • Anonymous

    No, a week prior from ZRH to SFO. We were at the airport at 9-930a and the flight with all the delays, a new plane, didn’t depart until approx 530p.

  • Anonymous

    Looks like that flight is delayed every week or every other week.

    06-Oct-2012 – Delayed 198 minutes
    23-Sep-2012 – Delayed 261 minutes
    16-Sep-2012 – Delayed 200 minutes
    05-Sep-2012 – Delayed 230 minutes

    16-Sep-2012
    Departure delayed by 4 hrs and 8 minutes.
    Scheduled Departure: 1:05 PM – Sun 16-Sep-2012
    Actual Departure: 5:13 PM – Sun 16-Sep-2012

    What counts for DELAY (for EU261) is how late (or delayed) was your DEPARTURE [not arrival].

    So according to Charlie’s chart you make EUR600 each. :-) Hope you collect it.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, it was a LONG, L-O-N-G day! According to what I read, that is the amount, too, but I will wait to see what they say.
    According to what I read, they were also suppose to advise us of our rights, which they never did. They did keep us updated on that we were not going to take off, fed us on the plane before having us deplane to wait in the terminal until we could board the second plane. The only good in that day was that the sky was clear and I got a fabulous view of the Swiss Alps as we headed west.

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