Air travel trouble? Know all about your Rights

Mishaps during air travel are normal. Everyone goes through it.

But, were you the one who has experienced it. Are you aware of your rights?

European Union specifies the airline passenger rights under the EC 261 Regulation. And even the United States DOT (Department of Transportation) helps air passengers through the Aviation Consumer Protection Division.

The cases of delayed flights or canceled flights are normal. However, if you aren’t informed about these in the specified time, you are entitled to compensation.

Knowing about your rights will help you to fight for it and claim flight compensation in time.

The set of rights usually vary in US and EU, so you need to check with them before requesting for it. Typically, the compensation is offered depending on the distance and length of delay.

Millions of airline passengers travel each year. And thus, the scenario for a delayed flight, canceled flight is common. Although flight bumping is rare, it happens.

You need to check with the regulations to finalize everything. Once you understand your rights, it will become easier for you to transfer from one place to another. Moreover, it will also make it easy for you to claim your compensation.

What are your airline passenger rights?

Air passenger rights are a set of rules and laws that entitled the passengers to claim compensation in case they suffer from any problem due to the airline company. These set of rules usually differ from country to country.

This compensation claim law is applicable for both, domestic and international flight. All the person traveling in the plane are entitled to the legal rights.

The initial problem is that not everyone is aware of their air passenger rights. As per the report, about 85% of the European Union travelers and 92% of the US travelers don’t know their rights.

Air Passenger Rights and Regulations you should know about

Each country has its own set of rules, but there are specific rules and regulations which are applicable globally. These set of rules are potent tools for air passengers. These are EU 261, US laws and the Montreal Convention.

Some of these regulations are more prominent and globally accepted. Each of these is more beneficial than the other.

European Air Travelers Rights under EC 261

The EC 261 is a regulation of September 2004 which is beneficial for the passengers. It ensures that the air travelers to ask for financial compensation if there occurs longer flight delays, cancellations or denied boarding incidents.

However, if the reason for flight disruption is due to extraordinary circumstances, which are beyond the control of the airlines, the airline doesn’t have to pay compensation.

Compared to the other set of rules and regulations, EC 261 is active. It offers flexibility to not only European travelers but to all. This regulation covers passengers traveling within Europe and outside Europe.

You are eligible for compensation under the EU 261 Rule, if you had departed from an EU airport, or landed at an EU airport with an EU regulated airline.

You do not have to be EU citizen to ask for compensation.

EC 261 Compensation for disrupted flights

It is the air carrier that is to provide compensation for delayed or canceled flights. Depending on your flight distance, you can claim compensation, which is up to €600. You should connect to the airlines, or the claim companies to help you through the claim process.

Rights under EC 261

You can claim compensation under the European Court of Justice’s EC 261 if your …

  • flight delays for more than 3 hours
  • flight cancellations without prior notice of at least 14 days
  • or you were denied boarding due to overbooking

Various factors contribute to the amount for which each of the passengers will get compensation. Apart from offering compensation, these airlines are also responsible for other things, such as

Informing passengers of their rights

As per EC 261, the airline company should tell you about your fundamental rights. These rights should be displayed on the check-in counters.

Reimbursement or rerouting

If the flight delay is for more than five hours, the passenger is entitled to a partial or full refund. Apart from that, the airline should also provide a return ticket to the point of departure.

Right to care

If your flight delays for more than 2 hours, the airline should provide you with the following

  • Means of communication such as two phone calls, emails, and fax
  • Meals and refreshments
  • Hotel accommodation and airport transfer facility for the overnight delay, or when stay becomes necessary.

Upgrading and downgrading

If you are provided with an alternative flight with a higher class, you don’t need to pay an additional charge. But, if the level is lower than that of your ticket, you are entitled to compensation from 30-75%.

What are extraordinary circumstances?

Extraordinary circumstances, also known as, exceptional circumstances, are situations which couldn’t be avoided and are beyond the control of the airlines.

These include…

  • Strikes by the ATC or Airport Staff
  • Bad weather
  • Political problems
  • Technical failure
  • Security threats
  • Act of God

When there’s a delay or cancellation, airlines in general excuse you with …

“We’are sorry, we could not compensate you for the inconvenience caused to you because your flight delay was caused due to circumstances beyond our control.”

Thus it’s important to be aware of your rights. If there’s news about the other airlines were operating at the same time, you could have chances for compensation.

As per the 2018 rule of the ECJ, Strikes from employees shouldn’t be considered as extraordinary situations. 

The air passengers who suffered from flight disruption can directly ask for the compensation by writing a letter to the airline.

Passengers can use this free flight delay compensation letter template  to file a claim against the airline.

What are the US air passenger rights?

The US laws prescribe certain passenger rights for delayed flights although they aren’t flexible as EU 261. These set of rules are beneficial for customers who are denied boarding, face luggage problems and are facing tarmac delays.

Denied boarding

The cases of overbooked flights are more common in the US flights than the EU airlines. Thus, the laws are evolving regularly to ensure proper compensation to the people. These airlines overbook the flights to avoid any unnecessary empty seats. People who are denied boarding in the US airlines are entitled to receive a compensation of about $1350.


Involuntary or voluntary flight bumping ensures that the passenger gets every compensation. The compensation may be reimbursement or rebooking. Once you know your rights, you will be able to claim your compensation.

Tarmac delays

The cases of delayed flights are hardly taken into consideration in the United States. But, the instances of tarmac delays are pretty serious. These tarmac delays can increase for long hours which is why the airline is responsible for assisting the passengers.


DOT does not allow airlines to stay in tarmac for more than three hours until and unless there are any safety concerns. To get away with these tarmac delays, you should be completely aware of your rights. In such scenarios, airlines must facilitate food and beverages, medical attention and operable lavatories.

Luggage problems on US Domestic flights

The compensation in these cases is only applicable for domestic flights. These may be cases of delayed, damaged or lost luggage.

Which flights are covered by US regulations?

The US tarmac delay applies to all the airplanes flying from or to the United States airport. However, the flight denial regulations are applied to only United States carriers.

The US laws based on the luggage problems are held valid for the domestic flights on the US carriers within the US cities. The Montreal Convention covers for the international flights. You should be aware of the process thoroughly to claim for your rights.

Krissy Georgiadis

Written by Krissy Georgiadis

Law graduate and wanderlust sufferer. I like rum and beaches.