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Flight cancellations

I found out the day before I was supposed to fly from Helsinki to Frankfurt that my flight had been cancelled. The airline said that they would refund me. Do they not have an obligation to offer an alternative flight? I was also really upset about the fact that my holiday was ruined. How much compensation can I ask for the inconvenience?

If your flight is cancelled, you can either ask for the price of your ticket to be refunded, which the airline must do within seven days, or ask to be rerouted to your destination under comparable conditions. If you choose to be rerouted, the airline also has an obligation to look after you while you wait. If your flight is cancelled, you can ask the airline for fixed compensation. Fixed compensation is not payable if you were told about the cancellation at least 14 days before the flight or if you were offered an alternative flight around the same time as your original flight, or if the airline is able to prove that the cancellation was due to extraordinary circumstances.

Compensation for damages only applies to costs for which you can provide evidence, for instance a rail ticket that is left unused due to a delayed flight, but not for disappointment or emotional distress.

More information about passengers’ rights in the event of cancellations and about fixed compensation can be found here.

What are my rights if my flight is cancelled because of air traffic controllers being on strike?

You have three options:
1) You can ask for a refund on your ticket. 
2) You can ask to be put on another flight to your destination as soon as possible. 
3) You can ask to be put on another flight to your destination at a later time, subject to seat availability.

The airline has an obligation to provide you with free meals and drinks proportional to the length of the delay, as well as access to a telephone, fax machine or email free of charge while you wait to be rerouted. If an overnight stay is necessary, the airline also has to offer you hotel accommodation as well as transport between the airport and the hotel.

Fixed compensation is usually not payable in the event of a strike, as a strike is considered to amount to extraordinary circumstances that the airline could not have avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. Airlines generally cannot be held liable for any losses incurred from delays caused by rerouting either.

Can an airline refuse to pay me the fixed compensation provided in EU law for flight cancellations on the basis of a technical fault?

According to a ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Communities in case No C-549/07, a technical problem in an aircraft is not regarded as an extraordinary circumstance unless the problem is due to events which are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the airline and were beyond its actual control. The onus is on the airline to establish that the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances and could not have been avoided even if all appropriate measures had been taken.

Updated 26.1.2015 Print