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Passenger rights within the European Union

By Matthias Loinig

Good news for flight passengers in Austria and the rest of the EU.

Although a previous EU-Regulation already provided basic protection for air passengers, it was still considered that too many passengers were affected by denied boarding against their will, flight cancellation and flight delays.

Subsequently the European Parliament and the Council adopted a new regulation on passenger rights, the EU- Regulation 261/2004.

Austrian Times legal Correspondent answered some questions together with  Mag. Teresa Zemanek for our readers:-

When does the EU- Regulation 261/2004 apply?

The Regulation 261/2004 applies to flights of any airline departing from the EU and to all flights arriving in the EU if the air carrier of the flight concerned is registered in the EU.

When are you entitled to invoke the EU- Regulation 261/2004?

Air passengers can invoke the EU- Regulation in case of denied boarding against their will, flight cancellation and flight delays.

According to the Regulation 261/2004 a flight is considered to be delayed if
- in the case of flights of 1 500 kilometers or less the flight departs 2 hours after the scheduled departure time,

- in the case of all intra-Community flights of more than 1 500 kilometers and of all other flights between 1 500 and 3 500 kilometers the flight departs 3 hours after the scheduled departure time

- in all other cases the flight departs 4 hours after the scheduled departure time.

What rights do you have?

Right to reimbursement or re-routing

In the case of denied boarding and flight cancellation all passengers have the choice between the reimbursement of the costs of the ticket, the re-routing to their final destination at the earliest opportunity and the re-routing to their final destination at a later date.

Some air carriers tend to offer passengers only one of those alternatives. However, passengers do not have to accept this offer for it is up to the passengers to choose which alternative suits them best.

If your flight is delayed by at least 5 hours, you are also entitled to claim reimbursement of the ticket.

Right to care

In any of the three cases the air carrier has the obligation to offer you meals and refreshment as well as two telephone calls or similar facilities.

In case of denied boarding or if necessary also in case of flight cancellation or flight delay you are even entitled to claim hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the hotel.

Right to compensation

In case of flight cancellation and denied boarding you are entitled to receive compensation amounting to

- € 250.- for flights under 1500 km,
- € 400.- for flights within the EU of more than 1500 km
- € 600. - for all other flights.

However in case of flight cancellation the air carrier does not have to pay compensation according to this article, if the air carrier proves that the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances.

BUT: Extraordinary circumstances do not release the air carrier from his obligation to provide assistance the Regulation concerned.

Further compensation

If you have further damages, you can also claim compensation for those damages. Nevertheless, the compensation may be deducted from such compensation.

Where can you claim your rights?

According to a recent decision of the ECJ (C 204/08) passengers can either claim their rights at the place of departure or at the place of arrival.

Austrian Times


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