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Boarding denied: Compensation and rights overview
Denied boarding is a stressful situation for any passenger and is unfortunately not so uncommon when travelling these days. If you have been denied boarding, except where there is reasonable cause, you are entitled to financial compensation from the airline. Depending on the flight distance, the amount due to the passenger is 600 €, 400 € or 250 €. However, if you decide to take an alternative flight offered by the airline, which departs and arrives within the statutory timeframe as outlined later in this article, the compensation amount is reduced by 50%. If you choose not to take the alternative flight, a ticket refund must be provided.
Passengers are also entitled to additional services, such as telecommunication, meals and refreshments, if the boarding denial delays their journey. When an alternative flight departs the following day, the airline is required to provide free hotel accommodation, as well as free transfer between the hotel and airport.
As many as 80% of passengers do not claim for the compensation they deserve, simply because they are unaware of their rights. Of those who do claim, only around 20% manage to pursue their case independently, without the help of legal services. Airlines are aware of this and rely on the fact that the majority of passengers do not know what they are entitled to, in order to avoid paying compensation.
MYFLYRIGHT, the experts for passenger rights, mean to end this unfair treatment of passengers. MYFLYRIGHT enables you to check, free of charge, if you have a claim for compensation when you have been denied boarding. If you decide to pursue your case with MYFLYRIGHT, there is no financial risk involved. A 25% commission plus VAT is only applied in the event of a successful outcome. If we have to engage our external lawyers, we charge a surcharge of 10%. In the case of denied boarding we do not offer an immediate pay-out option.
Boarding denied compensation conditions
When you arrive for your flight on time, and you have all the required documents for travelling, denied boarding is a frustrating position to find yourself in. If the reason for denied boarding falls under the airline’s responsibility, you have a right to compensation between 250 € and 600 €, depending on the distance of your flight.
This compensation is in addition to the services, ticket refund or alternative flight that the airline has to offer you.
With our compensation calculator, passengers can check if they have a claim and how much compensation they can expect to receive.
Denied boarding and overbooked flight: Meaning
Denied boarding, according to the EU Passenger Rights Regulation EC No 261/2004, occurs when you are refused entry on a flight, despite having a confirmed booking and checking in on-time at the airport. This is based on the assumption that there are no valid grounds to justify your denied boarding, such as insufficient travel documentation or health and security concerns.
Because flight overbooking is the most common reason for passengers being denied boarding, the term “overbooking” is commonly used as a synonym for “denied boarding”.
Overbooking flight compensation
As long as the reason for denied boarding is not the fault of the passenger, the airline is liable to provide compensation. There are three possible amounts awarded in the event the airline refuses to allow you to board the plane, which are calculated based on the distance of your flight.
In case you reach your destination by an alternative flight offered by the airline, you are still entitled to a compensation. However, be aware that if the alternative flight falls within certain time frames, as outlined later in detail, the compensation amount will be reduced up to 50%. You will also find more information on how to deal with overbooking in our article Flight overbooking.
Overbooked flight - compensation amounts
The route distance of your flight determines the compensation amount you may be entitled to. Be aware that the arrival time of the alternative flight at the destination also plays a role.
Here is an outline:
- Flights of over 3 500 kilometres outside the EU, with a delay at the destination airport of over 4 hours – 600 €
- Flights of over 1 500 kilometres within the EU, and all other flights between 1 500 and 3 500 kilometres outside the EU, with a delay at the destination airport of over 3 hours – 400 €
- Flights of up to 1 500 kilometres within the EU, with a delay at the destination airport of over 2 hours – 250 €
All compensation amounts are understood per person.
Flight overbooking - compensation reduction cases
As clarified above, you also have the right to compensation if you take an alternative flight provided by the airline. However, the payment amounts previously described will be reduced by 50% if the flight falls within a specific period of time.
Here is a table which explains this in more detail:
Overbooked flight: Rights to additional services
In addition to compensation of up to 600 €, you should receive:
- A full ticket refund or a refund for unused legs of the journey
- The earliest possible return flight, free of charge, to the original departure airport
- The earliest possible flight (or other transportation such as bus, train, taxi etc.) free of charge to the destination
As well as the above options, you should receive additional services. These include 2 free phone calls, emails or faxes, plus meals and refreshments, proportional to the waiting time at the airport. If your alternative flight departs the next day, free hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the hotel must be provided to you by the airline.
Below is an overview of the services and rights you are entitled to in the event of denied boarding.
Denied boarding - Flight compensation calculator
You can quickly and without obligation calculate your compensation claim by using MYFLYRIGHT’s compensation calculator. To try it, simply input the flight number and flight date. Afterwards, you can submit your case and let MYFLYRIGHT pursue your claim.
Up to 600 €* compensation. 3 years retroactively.
Denied boarding regulations for EU passengers
In order to receive compensation from the airline in the event of being denied boarding, there are a number of factors that need to be taken into account.
Whether the airline is required to provide payment depends on the following three factors:
- Airline and flight route: Is the airline headquartered in the EU and was the flight within the EU?
- Who is responsible: Was the denied boarding due to overbooking or was it the fault of the passenger?
- Deadline: Does the claim for compensation fall within the statutory timeframe?
In this section you will find details of the EU Passenger Rights Regulation EC No 261 / 2004 in case of denied boarding.
Overbooking compensation rights by route
In order to understand if you have a claim and to calculate the compensation amount, the variables which must be considered are the airline with which you fly, the country of departure and the country of destination.
The EU Passenger Rights Regulation protects passengers in case of overbooking if:
- The flight is within the EU, whether the airline is headquartered in the EU or not.
- The flight departs from an EU country and the destination airport is in a non-EU country, regardless of where the headquarters of the airline are.
- The flight departs from a non-EU country and lands in an EU country, providing the airline is headquartered in the EU.
The table below outlines the flight routes which are covered by the EU Regulation.
Overbooked connecting flight: Compensation rules
When connecting flights are made on the same reservation, the airline from which the passengers purchase the tickets is responsible for the entire journey, regardless of whether the connecting flight is with another, non-EU airline. Connecting flights which are departing from and landing in a non-EU country are also covered in this instance.
This extension of compensation requirements was ruled by The Court of Justice of the European Union on July 11, 2019. The change to the EU Regulation 261 / 2004 was decided upon according to a case involving passengers travelling from Prague to Bangkok under a single reservation.
The case is as follows:
- Flights were purchased from Prague, which is in the EU, via Abu Dhabi, which is in a non-EU country, with a final destination of Bangkok, which is outside the EU.
- The first flight was on Czech Airlines, an EU airline, and the connecting flight was on Etihad, a non-EU airline.
- The Czech Airlines flight landed at the scheduled time in Abu Dhabi, whereas the Etihad flight arrived in Bangkok 8 hours late.
Since the tickets were booked under one reservation, the court ruled that Czech Airlines must provide compensation to the affected passengers, even though the first flight was on time. This ruling applies to any connecting flight irregularity, such as denied boarding and delayed or cancelled flights, causing a delay of 3 hours or more at the destination airport, when flights were purchased as a single reservation.
This is useful information to have when booking flights, as it broadens the scope in terms of possible compensation for air passengers.
Why do airlines overbook flights?
The most common reason for denied boarding is overbooking. This is when airlines sell more tickets than there are seats on the aircraft. The reason for this common practice is so-called ‘no-shows’. These are passengers who do not show up at the airport for their flight, even if they have a valid ticket and did not cancel it. Sometimes this is due to some unforeseen circumstance, but in this era of affordable travel some passengers buy tickets at extremely low prices, without knowing if they will actually take the flight. Airlines have developed complex calculation systems in order to estimate how many no-shows there are likely to be per flight. The amount of tickets to be sold is calculated based on this data. In this way, the airline can maximise ticket sales, ensuring the highest profit for every flight.
This is not only the practice of low-budget airlines. For Lufthansa alone, around three million passengers do not show up to check into their booked flights each year. It is therefore understandable that airlines use this technique on a regular basis.
If you are denied boarding due to the aircraft being overbooked, you are entitled to a claim for compensation under the EU Passenger Rights Regulation.
Denied boarding: Reasons other than overbooking
Although overbooking is the most frequent cause of denied boarding it should be noted that there are several other possible reasons for this decision. Each case is judged individually on whether such reasons are justified or not. Below are a series of the most common situations where denied boarding occurs.
- If you booked your flight with a credit card and you happen not to bring it with you while travelling, some airlines may deny boarding to you. The airline’s argument is that a clause stipulating this as a valid reason for boarding denial is stated within their terms and conditions, meaning this has been accepted by the passenger at the time of ticket purchase. However, as stipulated by the District Court of Frankfurt in Germany, such clauses are inadmissible and therefore invalid.
- Another instance of denied boarding may occur when passengers arrive late at the check-in counter. Regardless of whether you have already checked in online or you intend to do so at the airport, you must arrive within 45 minutes of the scheduled departure of an EU flight and at least 60 minutes before a non-EU flight at the check-in counter. If these timeframes are not adhered to, the passenger may be denied boarding and is not entitled to compensation. The same applies if you do not have the necessary documents for the trip. This is particularly common with visas, which are required in certain countries, and must be valid at the time of boarding even for short stopovers.
- The most controversial case is probably when the airline denies boarding to a passenger because they are classified as a security risk, for example being drunk and disorderly, or due to illness. In principle, airlines are within their rights to deny boarding to those passengers who pose a risk to security when flying. However, due to the variable scope of judgement involved, legal disputes often arise in such instances. Boarding denial cases which have repeatedly arisen in the past involve conspicuous behaviour, obesity or even certain disabilities. It must often be decided in court whether such cases can be justified by the airline.
EU Denied boarding regulation: Can I claim?
Overall, however, the EU Regulation sets out the rights of passengers who have been denied boarding in a clear manner, leaving little room for misunderstanding or need for clarification. Whatever the case, MYFLYRIGHT helps to assess your case correctly and will aid you in enforcing your rights.
Below is an overview of which cases of denied boarding in which you have a claim for compensation or not.
Overbooked flight compensation: EU claim deadlines
The rights outlined by the EU Regulation are the same all over Europe, but what is different between the countries is how you can enforce your claim. Firstly, it is important to note in which country’s court your claim should be made. In Germany, for example, this is dependent on the following factors:
- Country of departure airport
- Country of destination airport
- Airline headquarters
Another key factor to consider when making your claim is the statutory time frame in each country. In the UK, you have 6 years from the date you were denied boarding and in Germany the deadline is 3 years from the end of the calendar year that the flight was scheduled in.
Here is an overview of the statute of limitations in a selection of countries in Europe.
Because of these timeframes within which you can make your claim, there is no need to be stressed during your journey as you still have time to gather all important information and proceed with your case. It is of course advisable, however, to start the process as soon as possible to ensure you remember all details of your case and no documentation is mislaid. Collect as much as you can in order to have the most successful possible outcome.
Boarding denied: Business and package travel
When you are leaving for a holiday that has been planned for months, or you are travelling to make an important presentation for your company, any flight disruption can lead to your trip being ruined. Even when you are offered an alternative flight, this might not be enough to make up for the inconvenience, as you may have already missed activities which were booked in advance, or the important event you were travelling for.
Be aware that for business and package travel you have the same rights as individual travellers.
In the case of denied boarding during a business trip, who should receive the compensation, the company or the passenger? In case of a package holiday, should you clam compensation against the tour operator or against the airline?
In this section we answer these questions regarding your rights in case of denied boarding during business trips and all-inclusive packages.
Overbooked flight: Rights for package travel
For package tours, the flight, accommodation and sometimes travel activities and other services are purchased together. For this type of trip, you are protected under the EU Passenger Rights Regulation, just like anyone travelling independently, meaning you also have the opportunity of claiming a compensation amount of up to 600 €.
Moreover, in case you reach your destination over 4 hours later than the original flight, you have the right to enforce a claim against the tour operator for a price reduction in case – together with the right to claim against the airline.
In this case the Frankfurt Table gives you a guideline on the possible price reductions.
Flight overbooked rights guide: Frankfurt Table
The Frankfurt Table is a summary of judgements of the District Court of Frankfurt in Germany where passengers have experienced flight disruptions such as denied boarding during package travel. It can be used a guideline for when passengers may have a claim, and how much in percentage they can expect to receive in terms of a price reduction against the tour operator.
It is important to stress that The Frankfurt Table is not legally binding and should therefore be used only as a reference. Cases are judged individually, and price reductions are calculated according to each specific assessment.
Airline overbooking compensation: Business travel
When you are denied boarding during a business trip, there can be serious repercussions. Arriving late for significant meetings, missing presentations and losing out on key contracts can be detrimental to your business.
When faced with this situation, do you receive the compensation or is it paid to your employer?
It should be emphasised that the traveller should receive the compensation, regardless of who made the booking. However, it must also be noted that some employers include within the employee contract a clause stating that the company, rather than the employee, has the right to such compensation. In such a case, the company gains the right to compensation. You will also find more information on the topic in our article Business travel.
Denied boarding compensation: How to claim
When making a claim against the airline, you have the option of claiming independently or you can appoint someone else to help you.
When pursuing the case on your own, it is probable that you will require legal services, as airlines are experienced and skilled in arguing against claims and have the support of extensive legal teams. If you choose the independent route, you will avoid the commission MYFLYRIGHT applies in the instance where your case is successful; however, it may not be worth the time and stress expended. Moreover, independently pursuing your claim can be costly. This varies depending on the country where you enforce your claim, for example, in the event a case goes to court and is rejected in Germany, the passenger must pay all legal expenses and court fees.
The following table illustrates the costs in a case in Germany, where 2 people each claim compensation with the amount of 400 € in court.
MYFLYRIGHT, the experts for passenger rights, can help you to get the compensation you deserve, saving you time, effort and stress, without any cost risk. If you commission MYFLYRIGHT to pursue your claim, you would not be liable to pay anything in the event your case is rejected or the case loses in court.
Denied boarding compensation letter
If you decide to enforce your claim against the airline yourself, there are several important factors to take into account and certain steps which you should follow.
Step 1. Write a letter. You can choose to write your own letter or simply use our letter template. With our letter template, you can either complete it online and email it to the airline, or fill it in, print it out and then mail it. When mailing the letter, it is recommended to use registered post – this way, you will know when it has been received by the airline, which will be important to use as evidence in court.
If you write your own letter or email, the following information must be included:
It is suggested to set a deadline for the settlement date of your claim. The standard amount of time is 2-3 weeks. If the airline has not responded to you within this deadline, continue to Step 2.
Step 2. Either you now seek the help of legal services, or send another letter to the airline, giving them a second opportunity to respond to your claim. You should again set the deadline for 2-3 weeks from sending the letter and if you mail it remember to use registered post.
Step 3. If you receive no response from the second letter, your case now needs to go to court. Airlines must respond to a lawsuit, which means they can no longer avoid your claim.
Before starting a legal process on your own, you have the option of enlisting the help of MYFLYRIGHT, in order to avoid any financial risk involved. Only in case of a successful enforcement of your claim is a commission of 25% plus VAT charged. If we have to engage our external lawyers, we charge a surcharge of 10%.
MYFLYRIGHT will help you enforce your claim, saving you time and stress. Whatever option you choose, bear in mind that you as an air passenger are protected by several regulations and you should insist on your rights.
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