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Air Passenger Rights Introduction: Compensation and Beyond

Millions of air passengers travel each year, but a large number do not realise that there are air passenger rights to protect them while in transit.

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What Are Air Passenger Rights?

Air passenger rights involve specific laws that support travellers and advocate for some kind of compensation when people face flight disruptions caused by the airlines.

Though the contours of the law vary from country to country, these types of laws are prevalent domestically and internationally (in the US, Europe, and beyond). In essence, if a person travels on an aircraft, they have legal rights.

The problem is that many people are not aware that the law is on their side or even that passenger rights exist. In fact, globally 85% of air passengers do not know their rights.

Playing an Active Role in Air Passenger Rights

At AirHelp, we are committed to serving the travel community and air passengers at large with crucial, up-to-date information regarding travellers’ rights. It is our mission to help novice and expert travellers alike understand decisive details. What’s more, we seek to simplify specific legal statues that are on your side, so that you know what the laws do and how you can effectively approach a wide variety of flight disruptions beyond your control. We help people that experience flight delays, flight cancellations, denied boarding and missed connections.

So far, we’ve helped 16 million travellers and we also provide additional technological tools for travellers in their flight compensation quests.  For instance, did you know that if you’ve suffered a flight delay our free flight delay compensation calculator can quickly calculate how much the airline owes you?

Air Passenger Rights and Regulations People Should Know

While it’s true that individual countries abide by their own laws, there are some key features of regional or international laws that serve as powerful tools to air passengers. These include, but are not limited to, EU legislation EC 261, various US laws, and the Montreal Convention.

Certain regulations have a wider reach or prove more advantageous than others. However, it’s best to remember that disrupted flight circumstances can differ significantly, and it’s helpful to know which strengths you can rely on for your journey.  

Flight Compensation Regulation EC 261 / 2004

What is EC 261?

EC 261/2004 is a regulation in EU law that favors the passenger and holds airlines financially accountable when air travel takes an unexpected turn that are deemed the airlines’ errors. In comparison to other legal statutes regarding passenger rights, EC 261 is one of the most comprehensive. This important piece of legislation plays a vital role in advocating for air travellers and passenger rights at large.

Why it Makes Sense to Know About EC 261

Travellers often do not understand that in many instances, airlines are legally and financially responsible for flight issues, not the passenger.  

Depending on your flight, flight scenario, and ultimate destination, understanding passenger rights and filing a claim can mean up to £510 per flight in reimbursements. AirHelp has a staff of legal experts to iron out the finer details and jargon.

Montreal Convention

What is the Montreal Convention?

The Montreal Convention covers passengers on international flights. These passengers are thereby issued rights, and potential compensation for flight disruptions are honored by participating nations.

Why it Makes Sense to Know About the Montreal Convention

120 nations honor the regulation, including the US and the EU. The Montreal Convention is also decently generous regarding baggage problems.

US Laws

Unfortunately, US laws regarding passenger rights are not as extensive as European or international laws.

What US Laws Can Do For You

US laws are, however, particularly beneficial to individuals who are denied boarding or who experience luggage problems.

Extraordinary Circumstances

Not all flight disruptions fall under the support of passenger rights clauses. The following circumstances are typically not considered within the scope of an airline’s responsibility, and therefore, would not be covered by the laws in place. In other words, the list below does not qualify for compensation:

  • strikes initiated by airport employees or air traffic control
  • political unrest
  • inclement weather
  • security risks

Renewed Hope: Passenger Rights Results

The focus on educating travellers, advocating for people who have experienced flight disruptions, and holding the airlines to the laws already in place are all strengthening the efforts and commitment to supporting more seamless travel and furthering passenger rights.

Accountability and Responsibility

Since its launch in 2013, AirHelp’s legal team has successfully challenged airlines that attempt to dodge their liability using unfounded arguments. For instance:

Natural causesOn one of the Greek islands, an airline maintained that a delay was caused by the need to wait for the sun to de-ice the aircraft naturally.

The mystery passengerIn Germany, one airline maintained that a passenger who was filing for compensation did not exist at all.

Drunken passengers and broken windowsIn Finland, AirHelp won a case where a delay was caused by the offloading of two drunken passengers, as well as the crew needing to fix a broken window. The court decided that neither of these causes fell under “extraordinary circumstances.”

Poland:

Disruptions on multi-leg flights: AirHelp has won a case where a passenger claimed compensation for their disrupted multi-leg flight that had a delay on the second leg. The airline only paid out compensation for the second leg, not for the whole route. The court decided that it is irrelevant which leg is affected; compensation is due for the whole route. This decision is likely to be followed by other courts.

Sweden:

Refusing Re-Routing: If passengers don’t accept the re-routing schedule offered by the airline following the cancellation of their flight and decided not to go at all, they are now considered to be entitled to compensation even when the passenger was already reimbursed for the flight ticket by the airline.

AirHelp Efforts Change Jurisdiction

Several of the cases AirHelp has won have led to legislative changes around the world, including these noteworthy scenarios:

Flight connections compensation in Germany: Before AirHelp started working on claims regarding delays caused by missed connections, passengers needed to prove that the only reason behind missing their flight was the fact that their first flight was delayed. Today, after winning several cases, a delay of the first leg that leads to the passenger not having the minimum connection time to change planes is automatically considered the airline’s fault.

Eligibility of infants to receive compensation in Denmark: Thanks to AirHelp, infants are now eligible for compensation whenever parents had to pay a fee for taking the baby with them on the aircraft.

At AirHelp, we want to help improve air travel for air passengers.

Continually Unpacking Flight Scenarios and Passenger Rights

We’re committed to updating, relevant, and useful information. At Air Help, we’re always unpacking the following flight scenarios and corresponding air passenger rights regarding the US, Europe, and collective international flights:

  • Cancelled flights
  • Delayed flights
  • Boarding denials
  • Baggage problems
  • Missed connections