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The EU Air passenger rights regulation

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

Article by Magnanini

Author: Magnanini Elisa

Date of Publication: 15/07/2022

After two years of travel restrictions, Summer ’22 appears as a return to normality. However, the airways industry suffered a lot from the economic effects of the pandemic. Low-cost companies, such as Ryanair and EasyJet, and national airways companies, like Lufthansa and KLM, have reduced their staff since 2020. At the same time, airports have laid off their personnel. Despite recent hiring, training and security clearance are slowing down the full-operational process.

You might have experienced the result of all of this: delayed or canceled flights, missing luggage, long queues at the airport.

If that’s the case, in this article you can find useful information about your rights and what to do.

Flight regulation and passenger rights

Content of the regulation

The European Union protects air passengers from flight disruptions through Regulation 261/2004. Its objective is to safeguard air passengers through refund and access to basic services. This happens in case of delayed or canceled flights. At the same time, the regulation provides an incentive for airline companies to provide a secure and efficient service.

Scope of Application

The regulation applies to:

  • Flights departing from a member state of the EU

  • Flights landing on an EU member state

  • Flight operated by an EU and non-EU airline

  • Since January 2021, the EU Air passenger rights regulation does not apply to flights from the UK to the EU if the flight was operated by a UK carrier or by a non-EU carrier. Passengers’ rights continue to apply when an EU carrier operates a flight from the UK to the EU.

In addition, the regulation excludes:

  • Passengers traveling free of charge or at a reduced fare not available directly or indirectly to the public;

  • Passengers that did not check in on time (last check-in: 45 minutes before departure).

In case of flight delays or cancellations you can demand a refund.


Regulation 261/2004 establishes that operating airlines shall provide compensation in the case of:

  • Denied boarding. The airline must first look for volunteers to give up their reservations. If those are insufficient, it can deny boarding but must provide compensation.

  • Cancellation. Passengers whose flight was canceled are entitled to compensation unless they were informed 2 weeks before departure. The regulation puts forward different conditions if passengers were informed of cancellation between 2 weeks and 7 days or less than 7 days before departure.

  • Delay. In case of delay, airline companies shall provide for reimbursement, meals and refreshment, and accommodation. This applies to:

    • Flights of 1500 km or less delayed for 2 hours or more;

    • Flights of more than 1500 km up to 3500 km delayed for 3 hours or more

    • Flights delayed for 4 hours or more

The amount of money a passenger can claim is up to the kilometers of the flight:

  • Flights below 1500 km are entitled to 250€ compensation

  • Flights between 1500km and 3500 km are due 400€ compensation

  • Flights over 3500 km are due €600 compensation.

Passenger Rights during the stay at the airport

Passengers whose flight has been canceled or delayed are entitled to free drinks and food and 2 telephone calls, emails or faxes.

The benefits increase for overbooked flights and staying at the airport longer than 5 hours. When flights are moved to the following day, the air carrier must provide accommodation in a hotel for the night.


Regulation 261/2004 puts forward “extraordinary circumstances” that exempt airline companies from providing compensation. Those extraordinary circumstances are events that people can’t avoid even if all reasonable precautionary measures had been taken. Examples of such events are airport or airspace closure, adverse weather conditions, birds flying into the engine, strikes. The burden of proof for extraordinary circumstances rests with the air carrier.

How to make a claim

If you experienced travel disruptions, you can claim to receive compensation.

  • First, you should send a complaint to the airline company. You can do so by using their complaint form or the EU air passenger rights form.

  • Second, you can complain to the relevant national authority in the country where the flight disruption took place. This second remedy is available if you have not received (satisfactory) compensation from the airline company.

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution Entities are the third type of available remedy.

  • Fourth, passengers can initiate legal procedure by presenting a claim for compensation under EU law using the European Small Claims Procedure.

Vision Factory hopes that this article helps you and wishes you a safe flight!


Reference List


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