EU regulation on passenger rights

Latest judgment gives boost to passenger rights

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Good news for passengers this week as consumer protections got a fresh boost. The EU, along with regulatory bodies, have been leading the charge for consumers in the battle for passenger rights.

By issuing additional guidance on the rules that clarify when passengers are entitled to care and compensation for flight delays and cancellations, the EU continues to bring clarity to be a much-debated topic.

Few will find it shocking that Airlines have been disputing the EU’s interpretation of the applicable law and will continue to do so in future.

Airlines to date have tried to avoid paying out for a number reasons. Such as seeking a different interpretation of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ , or arguing that delays for connecting flights should be treated separately from single journey claims.

Using prior court rulings that have defined precedence in these areas, the EU has issued explicit guidance in defining passenger rights in the following areas.


Previously if you missed a connecting flight due to a short delay that in turn led to a longer delay in reaching your finial destination,  it was unclear what you would have been entitled to. This latest change to the regulations makes it abundantly clear what passengers will be entitled to.

Passengers who missed a connection within the EU, or outside the EU with a flight coming from an EU airport, should be entitled to compensation if they arrive at their final destination with a delay of 3 or more hours.  Whether the carrier operating the connecting flights is non- EU or EU is irrelevant .

Extraordinary circumstances:

In the past, airlines have avoided paying out for claims that cited mechanical faults to be the reason for a delay or cancellation. Thanks to this fresh guidance it is clear that mechanical faults are no longer considered extraordinary circumstances. So, if, you find yourself stuck due to a mechanical fault , then you will be entitled to compensation.


The definition of what determines a cancellation has also been cleared up with the EU using examples to bring clarity. If a flight takes off and for whatever reason, it has to return to the airport of departure and the passengers are transferred onto other flights, this now warrants a cancellation.

If a flight departs and is diverted to another airport then that is considered a cancellation, unless passengers are rerouted to the final destination, then delay rules still apply, or if the alternate airport serves the same city and transport to the original airport is provided.

What's next

The new guidance from the EU is meant to act as an interim pending the finalisation of updates to the legislation and it is expected that some of the new gains will be lost, with larger thresholds for flight delays before the airline will pay out compensation.

However, many of the other improvements look set to remain in place.  The latest interpretation is a step towards ensuring greater consistency across Europe when applying EU 261 which was introduced in 2013.

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