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Recent Complaints of Note
EU Airline Regulations


EU Regulation 261/2004

If you have never been treated badly by an airline, you have never travelled! If you have never been treated with disdain by an airline, you have never complained about being badly treated!! Things should now be better, but are they? From 17th February 2005, the new European regulations should have brought a vast improvement for millions of travellers. The word "should' is used, because many airlines have learned that simply ignoring the rules works very well. With a mastery developed over many years, the European legislators have once again brought in regulations that are badly drafted and which they have no hope of enforcing. The airlines are, of course, well aware of the ineptitude of the Brussels fat cats.


The new regulations should apply to all flights, whether budget, chartered or scheduled, originating in the EU, or flying into the EU using an EU carrier. The new regulations require the airline to take better care of their passenger. As an example, if a flight is cancelled an airline is liable to provide the passengers with food, refreshments and overnight accommodation, including transfers to the hotel, free of charge, in cases where they have not been able to provide alternative transport to their destination. Complimentary refreshments are also an entitlement where passengers are delayed beyond a certain numbers of hours (see table below). If the delay is greater than 5 hours, the airline is forced to refund the cost of the ticket. While airlines have to provide assistance and support in all cases, whatever the cause, where compensation is involved, they are not liable in certain circumstances. The 'get out clause for airlines is that the reason(s) for the delay or cancellation must be within their control. i.e. It must be their fault. This where the problems arise. Clearly Air Traffic Control strikes and severe weather are not within their control. There are many grey areas where it is possible to put the blame on someone else, a tactic at which airlines are past-masters.

Perhaps the greatest benefit to travellers should be the curtailing of unpenalised over-booking. Most airlines overbook as a way of ensuring maximum utilisation of capacity. Hitherto there has been a 'to hell with the passenger' attitude. Under these new regulations, airlines should first ask for volunteers to give up their seats: this usually involves cash and other benefits. Passengers accepting this offer are not entitled to further compensation. If you are 'bumped' against your wishes, or have your flight cancelled without at least 14 days notice, you are entitled to compensation in accordance with the regulations outlined below. In addition, passengers who decide that they do not wish to continue with their journey are entitled to a full refund and a free flight to return them to their airport of origin. The airline must also supply meals and refreshments.

Overbooked Flights/Denied Boarding
Short Haul - Under 930 miles £172
Medium-Haul - Under 2,175 Miles £275
Long-Haul - Over 2,175 Miles £412
Flight Delays
Free assistance from the carrier including meals, refreshments and overnight accommodation, including transfers, is calculated on the time you are delayed and the length of your flight. The basis of the calculation is:
Short Haul - Two hours or more  
Medium-Haul - Three hours or more  
Long-Haul - four hours or more  

Before you undertake a journey by air, get a copy of the leaflet Air Passenger rights. You can get this from

If you are the airport you can ask the airline representative/handling agent for written details of your rights. They are required by the regulations to provide this for passengers. Make your claim clearly in writing to the airline and we would always recommend using recorded delivery mail for transmission. We get too many cases where receipt is denied!

If your claim is rejected by the airline, assemble all the correspondence and forward the claim to;

The Air Transport Users Council, 45-59 Kingsway, London, WC2B 6TE ( ) Advice on dealing with cancelled flights is also available from 'Which' at:

The Air transport Council is the quasi-regulatory body and will try, on your behalf, to secure an agreement with the airline. If there is no agreement they will hand the case to the Civil Aviation Authority who, if they find the airline to be at fault, have the power to impose a penalty of up to £5,000 per case in respect of failure to comply with the regulations.

If you have chosen not to travel because of cancellation or delay, the airline are obliged to refund your fare within 7 days. This may be in the form of vouchers, but only if you agree. Be aware of this clause. Nothing is more certain than that airlines will try to get you to accept the vouchers!


Whenever I prepare for a journey, I prepare as though for death. Should I never return, all is in order. That is what life has taught me. Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923)