Corona: Your passengers rights, compensation and options explained
Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, there have been a massive amount of flight cancellations worldwide by all airlines. Many countries have closed their borders so that entry or exit is sometimes not possible. The result: more flight cancellations.
Although compensation unfortunately doesn’t apply in many of these cases, many airlines are also not refunding tickets, even though this is something they are absolutely obliged to do. Moreover, many passengers are being pressured to accept vouchers – if anything at all – in lieu of a refund, which doesn't have to be accepted by any passenger.
Many travellers are wondering what their rights are. Is there a right to compensation under EU Regulation 261/2004? Can I get a refund on my plane tickets? What should I do if I’ve booked a package tour and the trip is now cancelled? We’re happy to help clarify your rights.
Cancellation of flight due to the coronavirus: Your rights
In principle, all rights remain in the event of a cancellation. If the flight is cancelled due to the coronavirus, regardless of whether there is also a claim for compensation under the EU Passenger Rights Regulation, the airline is obliged to reimburse you the ticket price or offer an alternative flight.
Although they should reimburse you with the full ticket price, many airlines are taking advantage of this chaotic situation and are avoiding doing what they are obliged to do under EU Regulation 261/2004. We feel it is imperative that you, the passenger, are fully aware of your rights in this uncertain time and it’s extremely important to remember these points:
• Full ticket costs must be reimbursed within 2 weeks after the flight cancellation
• Passengers are entitled to a ticket refund regardless if extraordinary circumstances caused the cancellation or not
• The traveller is NOT obliged to accept an airline voucher or alternative ticket and can ALWAYS claim for a refund of the full ticket price
• This is in accordance with EU Regulation 261/2004 and is therefore a law that airlines must abide by
So, to reiterate, the ticket price must be refunded if the airline does not offer an alternative flight – this is your right as a passenger and you can use MYFLYRIGHT’s services to help you.
We also recommend that you check whether you are entitled to compensation in accordance with the EU Passenger Rights Regulation. We are happy to support you without any cost risk - simply enter the case at myflyright.com and check your claim free of charge.
Is the coronavirus an extraordinary circumstance?
According to EU Passenger Rights Regulation 261/2004, it is an extraordinary circumstance if the reason for the delay or cancellation is due to force majeure. The impending coronavirus pandemic is beyond the control of airlines and is therefore an extraordinary circumstance that frees the airline from paying compensation to customers. The health of employees and passengers naturally comes first. However, it should be noted that delays and cancellations are only considered extraordinary circumstances if the departure or arrival airport is in an at-risk country, or if there are already entry or exit restrictions in place.
According to the Robert Koch Institute, the following countries and regions are currently considered to be coronavirus risk areas (as of March 16, 2020):
• France Grand Est region (Alsace, Lorraine and Champagne-Ardenne)
• Austria (state of Tyrol)
• Spain (capital Madrid)
• USA (state of California, Washington and New York)
• China - Hubei Province (incl. Wuhan City)
• South Korea (North Gyeongsang Province)
What are your compensation rights under EU Regulation 261/2004?
Extraordinary circumstances are not applicable in all cases of delay or cancellation. According to our current assessment, under certain conditions there may be a claim for compensation for a flight irregularity (delay or cancellation) which is related to the coronavirus situation. These include the following cases:
• The airline cancels the flight for economic reasons (e.g. low occupancy)
• There is no official travel warning for the destination
• It is a domestic flight in Germany
Our experts are following developments closely and are re-evaluating the legal situation for travellers every day.
There is no entitlement to compensation for cancellation / time changes of the flight if you:
• have been informed more than 14 days before departure,
• You have been informed about a cancellation / flight time change 7-14 days before the planned departure and if the replacement flight starts less than 2 hours before the original departure time and max. 4 hours later than the flight’s original departure time, or
• You have been informed less than 7 days before departure and the replacement flight starts less than 1 hour before the scheduled departure and lands max. 2 hours after the scheduled arrival.
Want to cancel flights as a precaution? Your options
Air traffic in regions with confirmed coronavirus infections in Europe is not yet massively restricted. However, if you are still unsure and want to postpone or cancel your trip, you can contact the airline as a precaution. Cancellations are possible free of charge if there is a specific health risk - for example with a clear travel warning from the Federal Foreign Office. The ticket costs must then be fully reimbursed to passengers within 14 days. If there is no health warning for the country or region of travel, the airline's regular cancellation policy applies.
What can travellers who have booked a package tour do?
People who have booked a package tour can cancel or postpone their holiday free of charge if the trip cannot be carried out due to unavoidable, extraordinary circumstances. A travel warning or an entry ban due to the coronavirus are examples of this. However, cancellation is also possible if trains in a country are no longer running or flights to the affected region have been cancelled. Holidaymakers whose travel destination is in an area affected by the coronavirus should in any case contact their tour operator to clarify the situation. If you are unsure whether your travel destination is in a region affected by the coronavirus or not, you can always rely on travel advice from the Federal Foreign Office or the Robert Koch Institute if in Germany or head to gov.uk if in the U.K.
Good to know:
You can claim compensation based on the EU Passenger Rights Regulation 261/2004 due to a delay (of over 3 hours), cancellation or denied boarding, for 3 years retrospectively against the airline in Germany and in the U.K you have up to 6 years to claim. You can check your claim with us now!
Images within article: Unsplash
Top image: Adobe Stock
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MYFLYRIGHT is a legal tech company, specialized in the support of airline passengers affected by flight delays, flight cancellations, denied boarding, delayed or lost luggage and the refund of unused airline tickets. MYFLYRIGHT was founded 2016 in Hamburg, Germany. The company operates out of 3 offices, its headquarter in Hamburg and its branches in Prague, Czech Republic and Zaporizhia, Ukraine. Currently, MYFLYRIGHT employs a team of around 25 people working in Marketing, Operations, Legal, Customer Support and IT. The organization operates across 5 markets – Germany, United Kingdom, Romania, Austria, and Switzerland.
MYFLYRIGHT’s goal is to provide access to justice for all aviation passengers who experience irregularities in their flight transportation. Notably, 75% of all compensation requests submitted by passengers get rejected. Whereas, MYFLYRIGHT is able to successfully execute the applicable customer claims in more than 98% of cases at court.
In case of a 3 hours flight delay at arrival
In case of a cancelled flight 14 days before departure
In case of overbooking / denied boarding
Delayed / Lost luggage
In case of arriving without the luggage
In case of a missed / not boarded flight