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Coronavirus - EU Commission guidelines: Is compensation payable when flights are cancelled - EU

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Summary of the communication from the EU commission
Interpretative Guidelines on EU Regulation 261/2004 on passenger rights in the context of the developing situation with Covid-19 - 18 March 2020

Right to choose between reimbursement and rerouting

- Under Article 5 air carriers must offer passengers the choice between

- reimbursement (refund)

- re-routing at the earliest opportunity

- re-routing at a later date at the passenger's convenience


- if a passenger booked the outbound flight and the return flight separately and the outbound flight is cancelled, the passenger is only entitled to reimbursement of the outbound flight (which was cancelled)

- if the outbound flight and the return flight are part of the same booking (even if operated by different air carriers) and the outbound flight is cancelled, passengers should be offered a choice between

to be reimbursed for the whole ticket – both flights; or

- to be re-routed on another flight for the outbound flight


- passengers should be informed about delays and/or uncertainties of choosing re-routing instead of reimbursement

- the “earliest opportunity” for re-routing may be considerably delayed and/or subject to considerable uncertainty

- reimbursement of the ticket price or a rerouting at a later stage “at the passenger’s convenience” might therefore be preferable for the passenger

- if a passenger chooses re-routing at the earliest opportunity, the carrier will fulfil its information obligation if it informs the passenger as soon as possible and in good time, of the flight available for rerouting

 Passengers who cannot travel or want to cancel a trip on their own initiative

- does not fall under the Regulation

- whether or not a passenger is reimbursed depends on the type of ticket as specified in the carrier's terms & conditions

- airlines can offer vouchers for another trip with the same carrier within a timeframe established by the carrier

Specific national rules in the context of the Covid-19 outbreak

- specific national rules do not fall under the scope of the Regulation

Information to passengers

- passengers must be given information on the rights available

- the Regulation does not contain specific provisions on information on travel disruptions

Right to care

- under Article 9 passengers who are affected by a cancellation must be offered care -

- meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time

- hotel accommodation if necessary

- transport to the place of accommodation

- if the passenger opts for reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket or re-routing at a later date, the right to care ends

Right to compensation

- compensation is not payable if

- flights were cancelled more than 14 days in advance; or

- the cancellation is caused by 'extraordinary circumstances' that could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken

- the following will be 'extraordinary circumstances' that could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. The list is not exhaustive

- if public authorities take measures intended to contain the Covid-19 pandemic

- if public authorities either outright prohibit certain flights or ban the movement of persons in a manner that, de facto, prohibit the flight

- if the corresponding movement of persons is not entirely prohibited, but limited to persons benefitting from an exemption/relaxation, this may qualify as 'extraordinary circumstances.

This will be, for example, where only residents of nationals of a certain country are allowed to enter the country.

- if the flight would be empty if there are no exempt person taking the flight a carrier can cancel the flight in good time.

Such a cancellation may still be viewed as “caused” by the measure taken by the public authorities.

This may also be the case in respect of flights in the direction opposite to the flights directly concerned by the ban on the movement of persons.

- where a flight is cancelled to protect the health of the crew.

For more information contact

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