Frequently asked questions on air travel
Cancellation of flights
If a flight has been cancelled, the passenger may choose either a refund of the ticket price within seven days or re-routing to the final destination on corresponding terms. If you select re-routing, you are also entitled to care during the waiting period. If the flight is cancelled, you are entitled to claim a standard compensation from the airline. If you have been notified of the cancellation at least 14 days before the flight, or if you have been offered re-routing that is close to the original times, or if the airline can demonstrate that the cancellation was due to exceptional circumstances, you cannot receive the standard compensation. Damages can only be received for verifiable expenses, such as an unused train ticket that the passenger could not use because of the delay. Damages cannot be received for dissatisfaction or inconvenience. For more information on passenger rights in cancellation situations and on standard compensation, see here.
You can choose from three options:
1) Refund of the flight ticket price.
2) Alternative transport to the destination as soon as possible.
3) Transportation to the destination at a later time if seats are available.
When waiting for re-routing, the airline must offer meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time and the possibility to use some communications device free of charge. If overnighting is necessary, you must also be offered hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the hotel. There is normally no right to standard compensation in the event of a strike, as this is considered to be an exceptional circumstance which the airline could not have avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. In addition, as a general rule, the airline does not have to compensate for the damage caused by the delay caused by re-routing.
Under ruling C-549/07 of the Court of Justice, a technical failure must not be regarded as a force majeure, unless the failure is due to events that are not related to the normal conduct of the airline and that were not effectively manageable by it. The airline has a duty to show that the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances and that it could not have been avoided by appropriate measures.
This Europe-wide phenomenon of distributing manifestly erroneous flight prices online on discussion forums is well known to us, too. The phenomenon is that a consumer who has found clearly incorrect pricing, i.e., exceptionally cheap flights, encourages others to order flights thus priced and to demand their rights as much as possible, if the airline invokes its pricing mistake.
The belief that a confirmed reservation would, without exception, bind the airline is strong among consumers. As a rule, however, this is not the case if the consumer has clearly known or should have known about the error and has deliberately exploited the situation. The price error can be very obvious – for example, a first-class intercontinental flight ticket at or below the lowest fare for the lowest class. This assessment may be complicated by the fact that even very affordable offers of flights may actually be available. Airlines can be expected to be careful and promptly correct incorrect prices. For price errors, in most cases the airline will cancel the booked flight quickly before the actual flight tickets are delivered.
An air passenger’s right to compensation in case of a delay depends on the length of the flight and the duration of the delay as estimated by the airline. If the flight is expected to be delayed by more than two hours on a route of less than 1500 km, the passenger will receive meals and refreshments in a reasonable proportion to the waiting time and, free of charge, two calls, faxes or e-mails. However, there is no right to standard compensation, as it requires the passenger to arrive at their destination at least 3 hours after the scheduled arrival. More information on passenger rights in case of delays and standard compensation can be found here.
If you are unable to make it to your connecting flight due to a delay, you may require that the airline re-route you to your destination free of charge, provided that your flight is on the same booking number, i.e., with the same ticket. If you have purchased two separate tickets, you are yourself responsible for catching your connecting flight.
Air traffic control is responsible for the smooth running and safety of air traffic. Air traffic control may impose restrictions, for example, if the weather makes inbound or outbound air traffic more difficult. This may be due to sudden and heavy rain, thunder or hail storms. Also in winter conditions, the freezing of the runway, heavy snow and side wind often have an impact. Thick fog may also be harmful to air traffic and there may be hurricanes on certain continents. Inappropriate weather phenomena can reduce the number of flights arriving or departing, cause temporary closures of runways or increased need for maintenance, and it is not unusual either that it is not always safe to land at an airport because of weather. Unsuitable weather may also have effect along the voyage. For example, a preceding flight may be delayed due to such weather conditions and arrive delayed. Such a delay may also have immediate effects on the consumer’s departing flight.
Some passengers will also be surprised that the standard compensation is not generally available in these delays and cancellations and that there are a number of exceptional circumstances that make the standard compensation not applicable and cannot be affected by the airline. As a general rule, it could be said that if you yourself think the weather is difficult, or if there have already been advance warnings about the weather, more flights have been delayed and cancelled, or the pilot indicates that the reason for the delay is based on weather or air traffic control, the right to standard compensation likely does not apply. It should also be noted that winter conditions may occasionally be exceptional also in here Finland. If, in its written reply, the airline has provided a more detailed explanation which, taking into account one’s previous observations, feels credible or is, for example, based on official sources, there is no reason to challenge the matter just in case or only because of the attractive compensation amount.
Flying and the coronavirus
If the airline cancels the flight you purchased, you have the right to choose whether to receive a refund or reschedule your flight. Instead of receiving a refund, you can choose to reschedule your flight to another time that is suitable for you, providing that there are seats available. These rights always apply if your flight was set to leave the EU or arrive from outside the EU, provided that the flight would have been operated by an EU airline. Currently, several airlines are offering vouchers or gift cards and various points systems as an alternative to refunds. If you wish, you can accept the voucher or the air points offered, but under the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation you always have the right to receive a cash refund. Therefore, you do not have to accept the gift card offered or the air points based on the airline’s own scoring system. It may not be possible to demand a refund from the creditor if you choose the voucher and are then not able to use it later on.
Consumers often use a flight brokers operating online instead of an airline to book a flight. If the airline cancels the flight you have purchased and you have chosen the refund of the ticket price in cash, the airline will be obliged to refund it. Flight brokers do not have an independent obligation to refund the money. Although the consumer often has no choice but to demand a refund from the broker, the broker is not obliged to refund the money until it has received the corresponding payment from the airline or tour operator. The broker must submit your request to refund the money to your actual contractual partner, i.e., the airline. Once the money has been refunded to the broker, it must be forwarded to you without delay.
In the case of a travel package, contact the guide. The tour operator will assist in organising the return flight.
If you have obtained the tickets yourself, you should monitor the communication from the airline. Usually, the passenger will have to buy a new return ticket. If you have paid for a cancelled flight with a credit card, you can claim the price of the unused flight from your credit company. If the payment has been made with a debit card, it is advisable to check with the bank whether the refund can be obtained under the terms of the agreement.
If you have paid for your flights with a credit card, you can claim the flight ticket price back from your credit company. If the payment has been made with a debit card, it is advisable to check with the bank whether the refund can be obtained under the terms of the agreement.
In the case of a travel package, i.e., a combination of flight and hotel, please contact your travel agency and require it to return your money.
If you do not receive a refund in any other way, you can participate in bankruptcy supervision. Follow the airline’s website for information on the bankruptcy supervisor and bankruptcy procedure. Unfortunately, a customer who bought flights is among the last ones in the order of collection, and usually the assets of a bankrupt company are no longer sufficient for all debts. It is worth bearing in mind that the supervision of bankruptcy claims is often subject to a fee and bankruptcy proceedings can take years.
On the outbound flight, you can claim compensation from the airline for necessary purchases, such as hygiene products. However, the passenger is obliged to minimise the costs incurred. Airlines may also offer necessity kits or a voucher for making the most necessary purchases. Luggage delays must already be reported at the airport (a so-called property irregularity report). In addition, a written request must be sent to the airline within 21 days of receipt of the luggage.
The airline is responsible for damage to checked luggage, if the damage occurs during air transport or when the luggage is in the airline’s possession. A property irregularity report (PIR) should be made as soon as you receive the suitcase, as otherwise it may be almost impossible to prove that the damage has been caused to the suitcase while it was in the possession of the airline. In addition to the notification of damage, the airline must be notified as soon as you have noticed the damage, and in any event no later than 7 days after receipt of the goods. Otherwise the right to compensation will be lost. It is also worth noting that used goods are not reimbursed at the full value of the purchase price.
Brexit and air travel
EU air passenger rights and Regulation 261/2004 are applicable even after Brexit to all airlines (including British ones) flying to Britain from an EU country. For example, on a British Airways flight from Helsinki to London, EU passenger rights apply because the flight departs from an EU country. The same applies to single-booking flights from an EU country, such as Helsinki–London–New York, even if London–New York were to be operated by a British company.
If you fly from the United Kingdom to an EU country on a flight operated by a British airline, the European Union regulations on air passenger rights will not apply.