- European Commission Regulation 261/2004
European Commission Regulation 261/2004 is a regulation promulgated by the
European Commissionwhich went into effect on 2005-02-18. It sets out the entitlements of air passengers when a flightthat they intend to travel on is delayed or cancelled, or when they are denied boarding to such a flight due to overbooking, or when the airline is unable to accommodate them in the class they had booked.
The regulation applies to any passenger:
*departing from an EU member state, or
*travelling to an EU member state on an airline based in an EU member stateif that person has
*a confirmed reservation on the flight, and
*arrived in time for check-in as indicated on the ticket or communication from the airline, or, if no time is so indicated, no less than 45 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time of the flightor
*have been transferred from the flight for which he/she held a reservation to some other flightunless
*the passenger is travelling on a free or discounted ticket not available to the general public, other than a ticket obtained from a
frequent flyerprogramme.It does not apply to helicopterflights, to any flight not operated by a fixed-wing aircraft, or within Gibraltar.
Before denying passengers boarding involuntarily, the airline is required to first seek volunteers to give up their reservation in return for whatever benefit is negotiated between the airline and the volunteers. Irrespective of such negotiation, such volunteers are also entitled to reimbursement or rerouting as described below.
If insufficient volunteers are obtained, the airline may then proceed to involuntarily deny passengers the right to board their flight. All passengers so denied must be offered all three types of compensation and assistance described below.
If a flight is cancelled, passengers are automatically entitled to a re-routing or refund. Where applicable, they are also entitled to refreshments, communication and accommodation as described below.
The airline is also required to pay cash compensation as described below, unless one of the following conditions applies:
*the airline notifies the passengers at least two weeks prior to departure
*the airline notifies the passengers between one and two weeks prior to departure, and re-routes passengers so that they can:
**depart no more than two hours earlier than scheduled, and
**arrive no more than four hours later than scheduled
*the airline notifies the passengers less than one week prior to departure, and re-routes passengers so that they can:
**depart no more than one hour earlier than scheduled, and
**arrive no more than two hours later than scheduled
*the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances that could not have been avoided by any reasonable measure.
The airline must also provide an explanation to passengers of alternative transport.
If an airline expects a flight to be delayed, passengers are entitled to refreshments and communication if the expected delay is more than:
*two hours, in the case of a type 1 flight
*three hours, in the case of a type 2 flight
*four hours, in the case of a type 3 flight(see notes for flight types).
Additionally, if the flight is expected to depart on the day after the original scheduled departure time, passengers are entitled to accommodation.
If a flight is delayed by five hours, passengers are additionally entitled to abandon their journey and receive a refund for all unused tickets, a refund on tickets used already if the flight no longer serves any purpose in relation to their original travel plan, and, if relevant, a flight back to their original point of departure at the earliest opportunity.
Compensation and assistance
There are three broad categories of compensation and assistance that may be required in the case of cancellations, delays, or denied boarding.
Cash compensation is a payment of:
#€250, for a flight of less than 1500km
#€400, for flight within the EU of greater than 1500km in distance, or any other flight of greater than 1500km but less than 3500km in distance
#€600, for a flight not within EU of greater than 3500km in distance where flight types are as defined in notes. Where rerouting is offered and results in the passenger arriving within two/three/four hours of the scheduled arrival time for a type 1/2/3 flight, the compensation payable is halved.
This payment is strictly a compensation for the customer's inconvenience and does not replace or form a part of either of the following two compensation categories.
Rerouting or refunding
Rerouting or refunding is, at the passenger's choice, one of the following three compensations:
#Repayment of the cost of unused flight tickets, and for used tickets where the flight(s) taken no longer serve(s) any purpose in relation to the passenger's original travel plan, and where applicable, a flight back to the original point of departure at the earliest opportunity
#Rerouting under similar conditions to the intended final destination at the earliest opportunity
#Rerouting under similar conditions to the intended final destination at the passenger's leisure, subject to the availability of seats.If a passenger's destination is an airport at a city with multiple airports and rerouting results in the passenger being taken to another of those airports, the airline must also pay for transport for the passenger to the original intended airport or an agreed nearby destination.
Refreshments, communication and accommodation
When passengers become entitled to these assistances, they must be offered, free of charge,
*Meals and refreshments in proportion to the waiting time
*Two telephone calls, fax or telex messages, or emails
*Hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the hotel, if a stay of one or more nights, or a stay additional to that intended by the passenger becomes necessaryIn the case of a delay, the airline may withdraw or abrogate these entitlements if offering them would delay the flight further.
Upgrades and downgrades
If a passenger is placed in a higher class than that for which a ticket was purchased, the airline may not request any additional payment.
If a passenger is placed in a lower class than that for which a ticket was purchased, the airline must refund 30/50/75% of the cost of the ticket for type 1/2/3 flights (see notes). For the purpose of this condition, flights to the French overseas departments are not considered to be within the European Union.
Method of refund
Refunds payable under this regulation may be paid in
cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank draft, or cheque. With the signed agreement of a passenger, they may also be paid in travel vouchers or other services.
Obligation to notify passengers
Airlines are obliged to display a notice at their check-in counters stating "If you are deniedboarding or if your flight is cancelled or delayed for at least two hours, ask at the check-in counter or boarding gate for the text stating your rights, particularly with regard to compensation and assistance." Additionally, when an airline cancels a flight, denies a person boarding, or incurs a delay exceeding two hours to a flight, it is obliged to provide each passenger affected with a written notice setting out their rights under the regulation, and the contact details of the national body tasked with enforcing the regulation.
Flight types are as follows:
# A flight of less than 1500km in distance
# A flight within the EU of greater than 1500km in distance, or any other flight of greater than 1500km but less than 3500km in distance
# A flight not within EU of greater than 3500km in distancewith the
great circlemethod being used to determine distance.
* [http://ec.europa.eu/transport/air_portal/passenger_rights/legislation_en.htm Full text of EC Regulation 261/2004 (in various languages of the EU)]
* [http://www.airpassengers.eu A website dedicated to the rights of air passengers in Europe (airpassengers.eu)]
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