Thursday, April 26, 2007

Fight Airline Abuse

Have you ever heard of EC Regulation 261/2004? Did you know that as an European air passenger you have rights, regardless of your nationality or the cost of your ticket? In place since February 17, 2005, I had never heard of EC Regulation 261/2004 until my sister showed up in London with €1,200 cash in her pocket after being bumped off an Alitalia flight from Rome with her children. Come to think of it, there is nothing in my recent experience with air travel which has given me any indication that passengers had any rights. This looked interesting.

Bearing in mind that I am pretty useless in both following regulations and explaining them, here is what I have found out about EC Reg. 261/2004

The regulation applies to any passenger (regardless of nationality) on any scheduled and non-scheduled (charter) flight within the EU and any flight into the EU on an EU carrier (For example, British Airways from New York to London).

If you meet the above criteria and have met your responsibilities as a passenger (holding a valid ticket, arriving on time etc.) and your flight is cancelled, seriously delayed or you are denied boarding, there is a standard set of rules for how the airline must treat you, no matter how little you paid for your ticket.

Depending on the circumstances, the airlines are obligated to provide passengers with assistance such as meals, accommodations and communication facilities, offer re-routing and refunds, pay compensation of up to €600 per passenger and proactively inform passengers of their rights under the Regulation.

Of course, there is wording in the Regulation about “circumstances beyond their control” which the airlines can use to try to get out from underneath the obligation to pay you the money but from what I was reading, current enforcement of this regulation often favours the passenger.

So here is my point. The next time you experience a cancellation, delay or are denied boarding, start telling the airline that under EU Reg. 261/2004 you are due assistance and compensation. Ask to see the information where they proactively inform you of your rights under the Regulation. If they can't or won't produce it, they are already non-compliant. If they don’t “get it”, start talking about reporting the incident to a National Enforcement Authority such as the Air Transportation Council in the UK. Ask to talk to a manager and start talking about sanctions for non-compliance. This is no panacea for the chaos that is air travel these days, but if more of us knew our rights and were prepared to fight for them, it would be a start.

Useful information on EC Reg 261-2004 and many other issues related to air travel can be found at the Air Transportation Council website

Click here for a copy of EC Reg. 261-2004


  1. With EU 261/2004 the airline passenger needs to understand the full limits and application of this consumer legislation

  2. Thanks for letting us know about and for making an excellent point.

    Knowing about a regulation is good but in the battle to fight airline abuse, understanding is even better.