Flight cancellations, overbookings and delays: Your right as a passenger to a lump sum compensation according to European Union Law


If you are travelling by plane within, from or to the European Union (or Switzerland, Iceland or Norway) your rights as a passenger in case of cancellations, overbookings or delays are laid out in the European Union’s Regulation 261/2004.


Especially, this regulation entitles passengers to lump sum payments - which means that no proof of damage is necessary -  and applies, if

-  the flight is departing from an airport located in an EU member state (as well as Switzerland, Iceland or Norway) regardless in which country the airline is based and regardless which country the destination is


-  the destination is an EU member state and you are travelling on an airline based in an EU member state.

1. Cancellation or Overbooking

If the flight is cancelled or overbooked, the passenger is entitled to a cash compensation. The amount depends on the distance the flight was supposed to cover:


- Flights of less than 1500 km: 250 EUR


- Flights within the EU of more than 1500 km or any flights of more than 1500 km but less than 3500 km: 400 EUR


- Flights which are not within the EU and more than 3500 km: 600 EUR



If the passenger is offered re-routing to the final destination on an alternative flight the operating air carrier may reduce the compensation by 50 %, if the delay is less

- than two hours, in respect of all flights of 1500 km or less

- than three hours, in respect of all  flights within the EU of more than 1500 km and all other flights between 1500 and 3500 km

- than four hours, in respect of all other flights.


If the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided, even if all reasonable measures had been taken, the air carrier is not obliged to a lump sum compensation. This may be the case if the cancellation is due to weather conditions or a strike. The burden of proof for such circumstances is on the airline. Technical problems however do not qualify as extraordinary circumstances.



2. Delays


Delays qualify as a cancellation, if the delay is more than three hours. If the delay is less than three hours, there is no right to a lump sum compensation under regulation 261/2004.



3. Examples of flights that fall under the EU regulation 261/2004


- Frankfurt/Oslo/Zuerich to New York/Dubai/Singapore on any carrier


- Frankfurt/Oslo/Madrid to Rome on any carrier


- New York to Frankfurt/Madrid/London on any EU member state carrier (i.e. Lufthansa/Iberia/British Airways)



4. Examples of flights that do not fall under the EU regulation 261/2004


- New York/Dubai/Singapore to Frankfurt/Madrid/London on any non-EU member state carrier ( i.e. Delta, US Airways, Emirates)



You can reach me at  0631 - 84 27 759 or you can also write me an e-mail and I will respond within one day. 


If the airline ignores your request and thus is at default, it is liable for your legal fees.


I am  - like all German lawyers - authorized to counsel and represent clients from all parts of Germany. Representation and even a law suit is of course possible, if you do not live in Germany.   


Also, please visit my blog and my main site for more information about German law, my practice areas, fees and me!





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