Passengers flying inside, from or to the EU are generally protected under Regulation EC 261/2004. We say generally because when you’re flying to the EU from the rest of the world, you must be flying with a European carrier for your rights to be covered by the regulation. The law safeguards your right to claim compensation if your flight has been delayed or cancelled and you’ve arrived with a delay greater than three and two hours respectively. If it has happened to you, you may be entitled to compensation. You can check your flight for free here:
So your passenger rights in the EU are protected, that’s great right? But, what happens in the rest of the world? Are passengers flying defenceless?
Similar passenger rights for flight delays outside the EU
There are very few other countries that compensate passengers for a delay or cancellation. That’s why we think it’s very important to point out complicated cases in which you will also be entitled to compensation according to EU law.
Missed connecting flight outside of Europe
Are you entitled? Yes. If your flight departed from Europe with a delay (it doesn’t have to be three hours) and you’ve missed your connecting flight outside of Europe, you can claim up to €600 euros. You can do so if missing your flight led to you arriving three hours or later than scheduled at your final destination.
Flying back to the EU on a codeshare flight
Can you claim compensation? It depends. Codeshare flights are those that are sold as flights from different airlines but they are in fact operated by one of the airlines and they consist of just that one single flight. For example, The flight KL 624 can be marketed as a KLM flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam. However, Delta also sells its own DL 9667 from Atlanta to Amsterdam. As it turns out, it consists of one single flight operated with one single aircraft. When it regards a codeshare flight, you’ll be entitled to claim if the operating airline (your booking confirmation should say which airline is the operating airline) is a European carrier. This means that perhaps you were flying on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam that was in fact operated by KLM. Therefore, you can claim compensation if your flight has been delayed or cancelled and you’ve arrived at your final destination with a delay greater than three hours (two for cancellations).
The flight left the EU without a problem but a disruption occurred outside of the EU
This one is a tad more complicated. Recently, the European Court of Justice ruled that an airline is accountable for the completion of your single unit booking. That means that they are responsible, from start to finish, for what’s stated in your booking. They have to get you from your airport of departure all the way to your final destination as stated on your booking. So, if your flight from Europe departed without any issues but your connecting flight (outside the EU) suffered a disruption (also outside of the EU), you can also claim if you’ve arrived at your final destination with a delay greater than three hours (two for cancellations).
We know it’s complicated so here’s an example. Let’s say you booked a ticket with Emirates from London to Sydney with a stopover in Dubai. Your flight from London was operated without any issue but you arrived in Dubai just to be informed that your flight to Sydney has been cancelled. Now, you’ve spent the night in Dubai and you’ve reached Sydney the next day. In this situation, you can still claim compensation! Again, we know that it gets complicated. If you’re still a bit unsure, use our claim calculator and check your flight for free!
Air passenger rights in European countries that are not EU members: Switzerland, Norway and Iceland
Regulation EC 261/2004 also applies to flights departing from some non-EU countries that are part of the continent. These are Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. In addition, airlines based in these countries are legally equal to those based in a Member State. Therefore, anyone flying to Switzerland, Iceland or Norway won’t be entitled to compensation only if the airline is not to be considered an EU carrier and the flight departed from outside the EU plus these three countries.
Nevertheless, there are some restrictions on passengers' rights. Especially in Switzerland, where the judgments of the European Court of Justice are not "automatically" adopted and Swiss judges often rule in favour of the airlines. For example, the important Sturgeon Judgement, in which a flight delay of at least 3 hours is considered as a cancellation and thus justifies a claim for compensation, does not apply. Whether the passenger receives compensation in such a case depends solely on the judgement of the court. In the past, such claims have been rejected. A workaround for this problem is that if you were flying with a European airline, the complaint can simply be filed in the relevant EU member state. So not all hope is lost.
Passenger rights in other continents
In many countries outside the EU, passenger rights are unfortunately not or only partially protected by law. Similar regulations as the ones in place in the EU often do not exist. The condition of passenger protections in the rest of the world is rather gloomy.
Many airlines have their own rules on how to act in the event of a delay or cancellation so that, with a little luck, you can still get some money back. In the event of flight cancellations, an attempt is usually made to transfer you to another flight. It is most certainly worth taking a look at the general terms and conditions of the respective airline. It turns out that the larger airlines usually pay for hotel accommodation, but low-cost airlines leave passengers in the lurch.
Two countries outside the EU are a positive exception: In Israel and India. Passengers' rights are actively protected so that travellers have a statutory right to compensation and/or a refund of the ticket in the event of flight delays, cancellations or incidents of denied boarding.
Air passenger rights in Israel
According to the law in Israel, airlines must inform affected passengers if their flight is cancelled or delayed by at least two hours. This applies to passengers travelling both from Israel and to Israel. In addition, a reasonable amount of food and drink must be provided to those affected. In the event of long delays, airlines must also pay for hotel accommodation and transport costs and provide access to a telephone and email.
Depending on the duration of the flight, passengers are entitled to compensation between 1250 NIS and 3,000 NIS (equivalent to about 300 € to 715 €). For example, in the case of a flight with a distance of around 4,500 kilometres, travellers are entitled to compensation of 2,000 NIS (approx. € 467). Compared to Europe, this is a much smaller sum, because in Europe it would be 600 euros.
In the event of a cancellation, passengers are entitled to a refund of the ticket price or to be rebooked. However, if the replacement flight reaches its destination no later than 6 hours after the scheduled arrival time, the compensation will be halved.
In Israel also, you won’t be entitled to compensation if the cause for your delay or cancellation is an extraordinary circumstance.
If a passenger is informed in advance of a flight cancellation and offered a replacement flight, he or she may not receive compensation under certain conditions. These conditions correspond to those of the EU Passenger Rights Regulation.
Air passenger rights in India
The Air Passengers Association of India, a national non-profit organization, promotes passengers’ rights in India and wants to encourage passengers to claim their rightful compensation from the airlines and also focuses on raising awareness of passenger rights among the general population.
Passengers affected by a flight delay will be provided with free meals after a certain waiting period. The "required" length of the waiting period is determined by the duration of the flight - the longer the flight, the longer the waiting period. If, for example, the flight’s duration is 2 hours and 40 minutes, you’ll be entitled to receive a meal if you’ve been delayed for 2 hours. In the event of a delay of more than 24 hours, the airline must provide hotel accommodations free of charge.
For cancellations, it is a bit different. If the passenger is informed of the cancellation 2 weeks before the scheduled departure time, he/she is entitled to an alternative flight or a refund of the ticket. If the cancellation notice is given less than 2 weeks and up to 24 hours prior to the scheduled departure time, he/she will be entitled to a replacement flight in addition to compensation if the replacement flight takes off 2 hours before or after what was scheduled. If the passenger is not informed of the cancellation at all, he is entitled to a refund of the ticket, free meals and, depending on the flight duration, compensation of up to 10000 ₹ (approx. 123 €). However, some other conditions apply.
What are extraordinary circumstances and when do they apply?
If the disruption has been caused by an extraordinary circumstance, the airline is exempted of paying compensation to its passengers. This applies to all the countries mentioned above. If you want to learn more about them, just check our detailed guide here.
However, airlines often overuse the argument. We’ll fact check them for you and we’ll make sure that they don’t get away with ignoring your rights. Even if they’ve already rejected your claim, you can submit your claim with Flight-Delayed (only applies to Europe unfortunately). We’ll even sue them if it’s necessary! Best of all, our 25% win fee includes all the possible costs we could incur in whilst claiming your compensation and you only pay it if we successfully claim it from the airline!
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