New compensation for delayed flights EU ruling
November 20th, 2009 by elisa

There has now been a European decision to require airlines to compensate travellers for long flight delays.  The ruling will require airlines in the European Union to compensate victims of mass delays for which they are responsible.

Passengers who are forced to wait three hours or more will be compensated 600 euros, the same as if their flight had been cancelled, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg decided yesterday. Airlines will be required not to cancel a flight unless it fits strict criteria set down in the new law.

The ruling stated: “Passengers on a flight which is cancelled at short notice have a right to compensation, even when they are re-routed by the airline on another flight, if they lose three hours or more in relation to the duration originally planned.”

The judges said that a technical problem with an aircraft could not be regarded as an “extraordinary circumstance”, unless the problem stemmed from events which “by their nature or origin are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned and are beyond its actual control”.

The ruling came in a judgment clarifying a five-year-old EU regulation which grants flat-rate compensation for cancelled flights of between 250 euros and 600 euros (£223 to £535). The judges said that regulation did not expressly provide that passengers whose flights are delayed also have such a right.

Rochelle Turner from Which? Holiday said: “This is great news for air passengers. We hear all too often of people who are delayed for hours at the airport, often without any information about when their flight will finally leave, and are then offered no compensation.

“This judgment means that consumers will now be compensated properly for long and often frustrating delays, and not just when the airline takes the decision to cancel a flight.”

Global airline passenger consumer group president Kate Hanni described the decision as “an important step forward in creating a legal acknowledgment that the rights of victims, abused and ignored by the big airlines for far too long, will be given priority over the bloodless corporations that have simply taken it for granted that they engage in any behaviour, no matter how injurious it is to consumers, without fearing repercussion”.

What passengers are currently entitled to:

Two free phone calls, faxes or e-mails; and

free meals and refreshments appropriate to the delay;

free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if an overnight stay is required

If the delay lasts for five hours or more, you can choose not to travel and get a refund of your ticket cost.

When they’re entitled to it:

When a flight under 932 miles (for example, London to Venice) is delayed for more than two hours.

When a flight within the EU that is more than 932 miles (for example, London to Athens) is delayed for more than 3 hours.

When a flight that isn’t within the EU but is between 932 and 2,174 miles is delayed by more than 3 hours.

When any other flight is delayed for more than four hours.

(Source Which? Holiday)

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