8 min Read
19 Jul 2012

Written by Liam

Over 30 years experience in financial services, residential lettings and property sales. Director of a leading national estate agency chain, until leaving in 2008 to pursue other commercial interests. Vast experience in new business development, business change, management development and business strategy.

More about Liam

Air travel – your rights and how to complain

Now is the time of  year when many of us will be flying off on holiday, so it makes sense to understand your rights and how to complain if things go wrong with your flight. All flights originating in, or flying into the EU on a EU airline, are covered by European Union guidelines. I have detailed these below together with how to complain if things do go wrong.

Transparent pricing

When you buy a ticket for a flight departing from an EU airport, all costs must transparent. The final price should be indicated at all times and this should include all applicable taxes, charges, surcharges and fees. The breakdown between the actual fare and all other charges must also be shown. Any optional supplements must be shown in a clear, transparent and unambiguous way at the start of the booking process and acceptance should be on a 'opt in' basis.

Information on the identity of the airline

You must be informed which airline will operate your flight prior to the departure date.

Airline declared insolvent or bankrupt

Insolvency of airlines is not covered under EU legislation. It is advisable to check what your private insurance and credit card company can reimburse.

Flight cancelled during journey

If your flight is cancelled you may be entitled to compensation of between €125 and €600 depending on the distance of the flight. However, compensation is not due if you are informed of the cancellation at least 14 days prior to the departure date or less than 14 days but you are rerouted close to your original times or the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances. This would include weather conditions or strikes.

In addition, the airline must provide you with a written notice setting out your rights and offer you the choice between reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket within seven days, re-routing to your final destinations under similar conditions, and appropriate care while waiting for the re-routing; such as food, access to a telephone, hotel accommodation of one or more nights if necessary and transport between the airport and the hotel.

Flight delayed

You are entitled to care in proportion to the waiting time (phone calls, food, drinks and where necessary hotel accommodation) if the delay is:

  • Two hours or more for flights of 1,500 or less
  • Three hours or more for flights within the EU or for flights of between 1,500 and 3,500km
  • Four hours or more for flights of over 3,500km outside the EU

If the delay is longer than five hours and you decide not to continue your journey, you are entitled to a refund of the parts not made and to a flight back to where you started your journey.

If you arrive at your final destination more than three hours late, you may be entitled to compensation of between €125 and €600 unless the airline can prove that the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances.

Flight re-routed

If a re-routing leads to a delay see above, if no delay is involved then this will not be covered under EU legislation.

Flight time changed

Flight time changes are not covered by EU legislation

Denied boarding 

If you are prevented  from boarding a flight, normally due to over booking, airlines are first obliged to seek volunteers  to give up their reservation in exchange for certain benefits. The carrier must also offer you a choice between a full refund and re-routing.

If you are denied boarding against your will, you may be entitled to compensation of between €125 and €600 depending on the distance of the fight and delay experienced. If you opt for re-routing, the airline must provide appropriate care while waiting for the re-routing; such as food, access to a telephone, hotel accommodation of one or more nights if necessary and transport between the airport and the hotel.

Downgrading

If you are placed in a class lower than that for which a ticket was bought, the airline must reimburse the following amounts within seven days:

  • 30% of the ticket price for flights of 1,500km or less
  • 50% of the ticket price for all flights of more than 1,500km within the EU and flights between 1,500km and 3,500km elsewhere
  • 75% of the ticket price for flights not falling into the above categories

Injuries or accident

Compensation can be claimed in the case of death or injury caused by an accident during the course of a flight, or when embarking or disembarking, initial compensation can rise to around €130,000 upon proof of damage, and the sum may increase if the carrier cannot prove it was not at fault. The person entitled to claim compensation may also be entitled to payment of advice compensation to cover immediate economic need, which can be of no less than around €18,500 and which must be received within 15 days of  eing identified as the person entitled to compensation.

Disability or reduced mobility assistance

If you have a disability or reduced mobility, you are protected under EU legislation from discrimination during reservation, boarding and travel. You are laso entitled to receive assistance without additional cost at airports and while on board an aircraft.

Lost, damaged and delayed luggage

If your luggage is lost, damaged or delayed you may, under certain conditions, be entitled to compensation that is limited to approximately €1,220 unless a higher limit has been agreed between the carrier and the passenger. The airline is not liable if the loss or damage is caused by the quality or inherent defect of the baggage. In the case of hand luggage, including personal items, the airline is only liable if the damage has resulted from its own fault.

How to complain

In the first instance all complaints should be directed to the airline through which your booking was made. If you are still not satisfied with the response then contact the National Enforcement Body for your relevant country.

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