Air travelers in Europe have more consumer rights than in the US when it comes to airline delays and damaged baggage contents. However, if passengers don’t know their rights, they don’t even know enough to ask.
When flying between Europe and the US, passengers have more travel rights for delayed flights and for damaged baggage compensation. However, travelers need to know their rights in order to claim significant compensation.
Here is the compensation rule for travelers in the European Union when it comes to international air travel rights. Its application is different based on from where and to where travelers are headed, but it is significant and consumer-friendly.
Where reference is made to this Article, passengers shall receive compensation amounting to:
(a) EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 kilometers or less;
(b) EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometers, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometers;
(c) EUR 600 for all flights not falling under (a) or (b).
In determining the distance, the basis shall be the last destination at which the denial of boarding or cancellation will delay the passenger’s arrival after the scheduled time.
When passengers are offered re-routing to their final destination on an alternative flight pursuant to Article 8, the arrival time of which does not exceed the scheduled arrival time of the flight originally booked
(a) by two hours, in respect of all flights of 1500 kilometres or less; or
(b) by three hours, in respect of all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres; or
(c) by four hours, in respect of all flights not falling under (a) or (b),
The operating air carrier may reduce the compensation provided for in paragraph 1 by 50 percent.
The compensation referred to in paragraph 1 shall be paid in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank orders or bank cheques or, with the signed agreement of the passenger, in travel vouchers and/or other services.
Article 9 Right to care
Where reference is made to this Article, passengers shall be offered free of charge:
(a) meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time;
(b) hotel accommodation in cases
– where a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary, or
– where a stay additional to that intended by the passenger becomes necessary;
(c) transport between the airport and place of accommodation (hotel or other).
In addition, passengers shall be offered free of charge two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails.
The fine print also spells out what notifications are necessary and other measures of compensation. Check out the Travel Rights chapter on EU Rules for more details.
1. Application of EU delay rules (US to Europe)
For travelers flying from the US to Europe, the rules are spotty. Those flying on US carriers get no compensation under this rule. However, for travelers on European airlines, these compensation rules are in full force, even for travelers flying with a US airline code share. It depends on the actual aircraft.
In other words, if a passenger is flying on an Air France ticket with an Air France flight number but traveling on a Delta Air Lines aircraft, no compensation would be required. If, however, the passenger was flying on an Air France aircraft with an a Delta Air Lines ticket and flight number, then compensation would be required.
This can mean up to Euros 600 in compensation for a transatlantic flight if the delay is three hours or longer. Plus, the airline is required to pay for meals, hotel accommodation, and phone calls.
2. Application of EU delay rules (Europe to USA)
In Europe all is straightforward. Any flight that is delayed falls under the same rules. The dance between code-share flights and operating carrier is eliminated and the lack of compensation from US carriers are eliminated. All airlines are liable for delays and cancellations.
This can mean up to Euros 600 (about US$650 at time of publication) in compensation for a transatlantic flight if the delay is three hours or longer. Plus, the airline is required to pay for meals, hotel accommodation, and phone calls.
3. Montreal Convention
The Montreal Convention compensation rules are even stronger for delays; however, they must be pursued in court rather than through aviation authorities. These compensation rules can amount to almost $2,000 in compensation when tours are missed and business meetings cannot be held. The best way for normal travelers to make these claims is with www.airhelp.com.
4. Lost, delayed, damaged luggage
Here, the EU rules are a two-edged sword. Total compensation is governed by the Montreal Convention, which means less overall compensation — $3,500 for domestic travel vs. about $1,550 for international travel. However, all items packed in checked suitcases are covered, even fragile items such as cameras and computers. They cannot be excluded from the claim.
Charlie Leocha is the President of Travelers United. He has been working in Washington, DC, for the past 11 years with Congress, the Department of Transportation and industry stakeholders on travel issues. He was the first consumer representative to the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections appointed by the Secretary of Transportation from 2012 through 2018.