Coronavirus and cancelled flights: Here are your rights

Many airlines have already cancelled flights to several countries affected by the coronavirus epidemic because of high risk of infection or due to a travel restriction. Many people wonder, can compensation be expected for these cancelled flights?

GIVT lawyer Kamila Szczygieł answers the most frequently asked questions:

My airline cancelled my flight because of the coronavirus outbreak, am I entitled to compensation?

Outbreaks are deemed “extraordinary circumstances”, special situations that exempt airlines from cancelled flight compensation as per Regulation (EU) No. 261/2004. Passengers are entitled to a ticket refund and we recommend they contact their airline directly.

My flight was delayed due to a coronavirus related issue. What are my rights?

Should a delay be caused by “extraordinary circumstances” that is not the fault of the airline, then no compensation is due. If, however, the flight delay is due to an airline operating issue such as unavailable aircraft, or delay of previous aircraft or crew, passengers are entitled to compensation of up to EUR600 each, depending on flight distance.

The airline denied me boarding because I was sick but not with coronavirus. Can I claim for compensation?

Each case must be assessed individually. If a sick passenger poses a real health risk to the other passengers and crew the airline has the right to deny boarding, negating any rights to compensation.

I want to cancel my flight to a coronavirus risk area. Will I lose my ticket money?

This depends on the General Conditions of Carriage of your particular airline, as well as whether a free change of date or ticket refund is available because of the current outbreak. You should read the terms and conditions accepted when booking your flight. Contact your airline directly to see what policies they have for epidemics.

Remember, here are your basic passenger rights when there is a flight disruption.

Passengers with disrupted flights due to a non-epidemic issue have several rights as defined by Regulation (EU) No. 261/2004. The airline cancelled the flight 14 days or more before departure due to insufficient bookings. Is compensation due?

In this case, you are only entitled to a ticket refund or possibly a flight on alternate dates. Compensation of EUR250, EUR400 or EUR600 may be due if the airline cancelled the flight 13 days or less before the scheduled departure while satisfying requirements as set out in Regulation (EU) No. 261/2004.

The airline cancelled my flight 14 days or less before departure due to a lack of bookings. What compensation am I due?

The airline has an onus to provide an alternative flight to the destination of the original flight. If the following conditions are met, however, no compensation is due:

– passengers were advised of the flight cancellation between two weeks and 7 days before the scheduled departure and an alternative flight has been provided which departs no more than 2 hours before the original scheduled departure time and arrives at the destination less than 4 hours after the original scheduled arrival time,

– passengers were advised of the flight cancellation less than 7 days before the scheduled departure and an alternative flight has been provided which departs no more than 1 hour before the original scheduled departure time and arrives at the destination less than 2 hours after the original scheduled arrival time.

My flight was delayed by more than 3 hours, can I claim compensation?

Compensation for a delay may be due after a delay of 3 or more hours. The delay is counted as the difference between the scheduled time of arrival and the actual time of landing (the moment the aircraft doors are opened after landing). Additionally, if the delay is greater than 5 hours, a ticket refund claim can also be made.

Please note that in addition to the above rights, Regulation (EU) No. 261/2004 also defines additional conditions that determine whether passengers are entitled to compensation of EUR250, EUR400 or EUR600. Circumstances also exist whereby the airline is exempt from paying compensation. You can find out more at our easy to follow passenger rights page.

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