Has your flight been delayed or cancelled?
Every year, over 30 million European air passengers experience flight delays and cancellations, and shockingly, only 9% are aware of their rights in such situations. However, since 2004, European airline companies are required to compensate air passengers financially in accordance with Regulation EC 261/2004 in cases of denied boarding, flight cancellations, or delays of three hours or more.
Regulation 261/2004 establishes common rules regarding compensation and assistance to passengers who experience flight disruptions. It outlines the entitlements of air passengers when their scheduled flight is delayed or cancelled. Passengers may be eligible for compensation under EU261/2004 if they meet specific criteria. These criteria include departing from an EU airport on any airline or arriving at an EU airport on an EU carrier airline, the incident occurred within the last six years, the incident was not due to extraordinary circumstances, and the airline is still in business.
However, airlines may invoke “extraordinary circumstances” to avoid paying compensation, which can be difficult to challenge. EU261 extraordinary circumstances are defined as incidents that are not inherent to the normal operation of the airline and beyond the airline’s control.
Some examples of EU261 extraordinary circumstances are:
- military unrest
- acts of terrorism and sabotage
- air traffic control strikes
- political unrest
- airport security issues
- natural disasters
- adverse weather conditions
- hidden manufacturing defects
It is worth noting that airlines frequently cite extraordinary circumstances without providing sufficient information to assess whether the circumstances are indeed extraordinary. According to EU261/2004, airlines should supply proof of extraordinary circumstances free of charge to the national enforcement body and passengers in line with the national provisions regarding access to such documents. However, airlines often decline to provide details to frustrate the claims process and reduce the administrative burden of providing such information.
It is important to note that certain incidents are not considered extraordinary circumstances, such as lightning strikes, technical issues, staffing issues, missing flight documentation, safety (SA) inspections, and bird strikes (as of May 2017, a Bird Strike is a deemed extraordinary circumstance). However, the most difficult circumstance to assess is adverse weather. Adverse weather must be wholly exceptional and not inherent to the normal exercise of the airline’s activity.
In cases of diverted flights, passengers are often left stranded and confused. A flight diversion occurs when the plane does not land at the intended destination airport due to the pilot’s decision or Air Traffic Controllers’ direction. Mulholland Law can assist passengers affected by diverted flights and ensure that they receive the compensation they are entitled to under EU261/2004.
It is vital for air passengers to understand their rights under EU261/2004 and seek legal advice from Mulholland Law when faced with flight disruptions, delays, and cancellations. We can assist passengers in navigating the complexities of aviation law and ensuring that they receive the compensation they deserve.