EU Passenger Rights for Flight Delays and Cancellations

Nov 04, 2023

The arena of air travel is fraught with uncertainties, and the European Union has taken significant strides in protecting passengers with EU Regulation 261/2004. As legal practitioners and consumers alike navigate the complexities of travel, it's crucial to understand the rights this regulation affords.

The Scope of EU Regulation 261/2004

Known simply as EC 261, this legislative act requires airlines to compensate passengers in the event of long delays, cancellations, and denied boarding. It's not just flights within Europe that are covered; routes from the European Economic Area (EEA) and "outermost regions" like the Canary Islands and French overseas departments are also included.

Compensation in Case of Delays

EC 261 establishes that passengers are eligible for compensation up to €600 for delays over three hours. However, the conditions for eligibility and the exact compensation depend on various factors, including the flight's distance and the duration of the delay.

International Flights and EC 261

The regulation also covers international flights under certain conditions. Flights departing from the EEA are always covered, while flights arriving in the EEA are covered if operated by an EEA-based carrier.

Extraordinary Circumstances and Airline Obligations

Airlines are not liable for compensation in 'extraordinary circumstances' beyond their control, such as severe weather, political instability, or air traffic control restrictions. However, technical difficulties or operational issues don't fall under this exemption, as decided by the European Court of Justice.

Rights Beyond Compensation

EC 261 also provides passengers with the right to refunds or rerouting for cancellations and delays beyond five hours. Additionally, passengers are entitled to care, which includes meals, refreshments, and accommodation if necessary.

The Statute of Limitations for Claims

Passengers should be aware that the right to compensation does not last indefinitely. The time frame to lodge a claim varies by country within the EU, with statutes of limitations ranging from two months to ten years.


The protections afforded by EC 261 are significant, but they also bring complexities. Passengers must be well-informed of their rights and the airlines' obligations. When issues arise, a clear understanding of EC 261 is essential for passengers to effectively claim what they are duly owed.

Our law firm has succeeded in obtaining the amounts to which passengers are entitled in many cases. Please contact us and let us handle your case.