Cancelled flight in the EU: how to get reimbursed and compensated

by Destination(s) Europe

📌 Read in / Lire en : Français (French)

Strike, climate disruptions, and… pandemic. Every regular passenger has faced, at least once in their life, a flight cancellation. It’s never pleasant; vacations or business meetings are inevitably disturbed, or even completely put into question. And when you’ve been looking forward to a break for a long time, it can make you furious. But know that all is not lost. Indeed, a cancelled flight is also not trivial for the airline responsible. How can you get refunded and compensated when your flight is cancelled? We cover this in detail in this article.

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Which flights are covered by EU rules?

You’ll find that the European Union’s rules regarding passenger rights when a flight is delayed apply not only to EU citizens. According to the European Commission’s website, these rules apply:

  • If your flight takes place within the EU, operated by an airline established in the EU or outside of the EU.
  • If your flight departs from an EU airport heading to a non-EU country, operated by an airline established in the EU or outside of the EU.
  • If your flight arrives in the EU  from a non-EU country and is operated by an EU airline.
  • If you have not already received benefits  (compensation, re-routing or airline assistance), in accordance with the applicable law of a non-EU country, for flight-related problems during the relevant trip.

Note: Return flights are always considered as two separate flights, even if they are part of the same booking.

Cancellation of my flight: what are my rights?

If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to various supports from the responsible airline. You can choose between:

  1. Being offered a new flight to your final destination under the same transport conditions (this is important).
  2. A refund of your ticket if you decide not to travel, including support for the return journey if you are in transit.

While waiting for your replacement flight or being rerouted to your departure airport, the airline responsible for your journey has the duty to take care of you, providing you with meals and allowing you to communicate (two calls, two SMS or two emails).

You can also claim compensation:

  • 💶 €250 for a flight of less than 1500 kilometers
  • 💶 €400 for a flight between 1500 and 3500 km
  • 💶 €600 for a flight beyond 3,500 km , provided you are at least 4 hours late (€300 for a delay between 3 and 4 hours).

However, be cautious, as there are certain conditions. Indeed, you can claim compensation if:

  • You were informed of the cancellation two weeks before departure time (obviously, you do not lose your money) or, in case of a shorter period, if a seat is offered on another flight close to the original schedule.
  • The airline proves that the cancellation is due to extraordinary circumstances that could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken (read above).

What is an exceptional circumstance? Here is what Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the Parliament, which establishes community rules for compensation, states: “The obligations of effective air carriers should be limited, or their liability exempted in cases where an event is due to extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. Such circumstances may occur, in particular, in case of political instability, weather conditions incompatible with the operation of the concerned flight, security risks, unforeseen failures affecting flight safety, as well as strikes affecting the operations of an effective air carrier.”

What to do in case of a dispute with your airline?

In every EU country, as well as in Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland, a body has been designated by the Commission to enforce the 2004 regulation. In France, it’s the Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGAC).

When to contact the DGAC?

  • If the flight that experienced the incident departed from France, regardless of your final destination and the nationality of the airline.
  • If the flight that experienced the incident arrived in France and originated from a country other than a member state of the European Union, Norway, Iceland, or Switzerland, provided that the effective carrier belongs to the European Union, Norway, Iceland, or Switzerland.

📑 To report a dispute, go to the DGAC website.

Cancelled flight: opting for a specialized site to get compensated

Online, there are many companies offering to secure compensation for you in case of your flight cancellation, but there are a few heavyweights in the sector with significant teams of lawyers. Here are three to note:

Among these, let us cite three:

We hope that this guide, which we wanted to be as comprehensive as possible, has helped you to see things more clearly. We hope you now know how to get refunded and compensated for a cancelled flight, while hoping that it doesn’t happen to you often.

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