The European Union Single Market for air travel greatly benefits air passengers by improving the quality of air carrier services and giving passengers a wider choice of airlines and flight options. Moreover, where air passengers face long delays or flight cancellations, experience difficulties in retrieving their luggage or are not happy with the quality of service provided by airlines, enhanced consumer protections are in place.
EU* Air Passenger Rights
These apply when:
- Your flight is within the EU and is operated either by an EU or a non-EU airline
- Your flight arrives in the EU from outside the EU and is operated by an EU airline
- Your flight departs from the EU to a non-EU country operated by an EU or a non-EU airline
* In 2020, the EU includes Austria, Italy, Belgium, Latvia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Croatia, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Malta, Czechia, Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Estonia, Portugal, Finland, Romania, France, Slovakia, Germany, Slovenia, Greece, Spain, Hungary, Sweden, Ireland (including Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion Island, Mayotte, Saint-Martin (French Antilles), the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands).
- An Irish consumer contacted ECC Ireland for assistance after her 16-year-old daughter was refused boarding for a flight with a Spanish airline, as the flight was overbooked. She was booked onto a flight for the next day but was not given any accommodation, meals, or telephone calls. The airline would only offer flight vouchers as compensation but gave no indication of their value. ECC Ireland shared the case with ECC Spain, who contacted the airline and pointed out their obligations under EU Regulation 261/2004. The airline accordingly issued the consumer with €250 compensation.
- A Spanish consumer booked flights from Barcelona to Seville with an Irish airline. On boarding, he was told that his hand luggage was not in conformity with the airline’s hand luggage policies and was charged €54 to check it into the hold. However, he was then informed that the airline staff couldn’t check in the bag and so he was told to take it with him in the cabin. The consumer accordingly wrote to the airline, seeking a refund of the €54 he had paid to check in the bag. He received no reply and asked ECC Spain for assistance. The case was shared with ECC Ireland, who contacted the airline on the consumer’s behalf and managed to obtain a full refund for him.
- A consumer booked flights from Dublin to Singapore using a web agent based in Greece. On inspection of her booking, she discovered that her connecting flight from London to Dublin on the way home departed from a different airport – she was to land in Heathrow on her return from Kuala Lumpur, but depart for Dublin from Gatwick. There was only a two and a half hour wait between connections, which meant it was impossible for the consumer to travel from one airport to the other and make the connecting flight. ECC Ireland shared the case with ECC Greece and asked them to remind the web trader that, as they were acting as agents for the airlines, it was their duty to exercise all due care, skill, and diligence towards the consumer and as such, to book her on flights with feasible travel times. The trader replied favourably to ECC Greece and reissued flights for the consumer. The case was therefore amicably resolved. You have not already received benefits (compensation, re-routing, assistance from the airline) for flight related problems for this journey under the relevant law of a non-EU country.
When booking a flight it is important to review, understand and agree to all charges included in the airfare price. It is advisable that air passengers always check the Terms and Conditions or flight ticket agreements in order to become aware of relevant restrictions and procedures associated with the journey.
Should problems arise, such as a flight being cancelled or delayed for any reason, or you are denied boarding, you have significant entitlements and protections under the applicable European Union consumer rights legislation. The legislation covers:
Your Air Passenger Rights
Flight delays, cancellations, denied boarding
If you depart from an EU airport, or arriving in the EU flying with an air carrier based in the EU, UK, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland, and your air journey is disrupted, you have significant rights and entitlements under EU law.
Regulation (EC) 261/2004 established common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers, which air carriers are obliged to comply with in the event of flight delay, cancellation or denied boarding. Accordingly, you have the right to be informed of the circumstances of your journey in a timely manner before, during and after the travel and about your entitlements in case of disruption. Depending on the situation you may be entitled to receive assistance, be offered the option of continuing your trip or seeking a refund of your ticket.
The air carrier shall ensure that at check-in a clearly legible notice containing the following text is displayed in a manner clearly visible to passengers: “If you are denied boarding or if your flight is cancelled or delayed for at least two hours, ask at the check-in counter or boarding gate for the text stating your rights, particularly with regard to compensation and assistance.” In addition, an airline denying boarding or cancelling a flight should provide each passenger with a written notice setting out the rules for compensation and assistance. It should also provide each passenger affected by a delay of at least two hours with an equivalent notice.
Read about your air travel consumer rights in more detail here:
Read a quick overview of your air travel entitlements here: Flight Rights Calculator.
Lost, delayed or damaged luggage
Under the Montreal Convention, you can claim compensation of up to 1,288 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) if your checked baggage fails to arrive on time or is damaged. Although, air carriers differ in their approach to offering compensation, you may be required to prove the extent of the loss, e.g. with receipts or invoices. Click here to find out more about your rights for delayed or damaged luggage.
Air Fare Price Transparency
Applying full price transparency is an obligation under Air Services Regulation (Regulation 1008/2008/EC), which requires that the published price shall include the fare and all applicable taxes, charges, surcharges and fees which are unavoidable and foreseeable at the time of publication. Accordingly, if you book a flight online, the final price must be available from the initial page enabling you to compare prices across airlines and make an informed choice. In case of optional price supplements, they have to be indicated in a clear and transparent manner.
All passengers have the right to equal access to airfares without any discrimination based on their nationality or their place of residence.
- For queries pertaining to the cancellation of a flight, denied boarding, long delays, or persons with reduced mobility under Regulation (EC) 261/2004, you can contact the Commission for Aviation Regulation in Ireland. The other National Enforcement Bodies in the European Union can be found here.
- For queries and complaints involving Irish airlines, you can contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
- If your consumer complaint was not resolved and your claim does not exceed €2,000, you can avail of the Small Claims Procedure.
- For more information on EU policies or air travel and your general travel rights, please see:
Coronavirus-related air passenger rights updates
- April 2020: Guidance on Regulation EC 261/2004 Flight Cancellations for Refunds and Vouchers in Ireland here.
- March 2020: COVID-19: Consumer advice
How to claim your air passenger rights here
How to make an effective consumer complaint here