EU air passenger rights in case of denied boarding, a delayed flight or a cancelled flight



Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 setting out common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights


It aims to ensure a high level of protection for passengers by setting common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights.


This regulation applies to:

On condition that the passengers have a confirmed reservation on the flight concerned and, except in the case of cancellation, present themselves for check-in at the time indicated in advance or, if no time is indicated, not later than 45 minutes before the published departure time. This regulation establishes passengers’ rights if:

It does not apply to passengers travelling:

Denied boarding

When an air carrier reasonably expects to deny boarding on a flight, it first calls for volunteers to surrender their reservations in exchange for certain benefits. If an insufficient number of volunteers come forward to allow the remaining passengers to board the flight, the air carrier may then deny boarding to passengers against their will, in which case it must compensate them.

Air carriers give priority to persons with reduced mobility and any persons accompanying them.

In the event of a flight cancellation or denied boarding, passengers affected have the right to:


The regulation introduces a three-tier system:

In a referral for a preliminary ruling (Joined Cases C-402/07 and C-432/07), the Court of Justice of the European Union clarified that when passengers reach their final destination 3 hours or more after the scheduled arrival time, they (like passengers whose flights are cancelled) may seek flat-rate compensation from the airline, unless the delay is caused by extraordinary circumstances. According to the principle of equal treatment, passengers whose flights are delayed and those whose flights are cancelled ‘at the very last moment’ must be regarded as being in comparable situations as regards the application of their right to compensation, because those passengers suffer similar inconvenience, namely, a loss of time.


In the event of the cancellation of a flight, the passengers concerned must be offered:


Compensation is to be paid if the passenger has not been informed of the cancellation sufficiently in advance. It does not, however, have to be paid if the carrier can prove that the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

Upgrading and downgrading

If an air carrier places a passenger in a class lower than that for which the ticket was purchased, the passenger must be reimbursed within 7 days, as follows:


It has applied since 17 February 2005.


For more information, see:

Following the COVID-19 outbreak and introducing measures to cope with the impact of the crisis, the European Commission adopted:


Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91 (OJ L 46, 17.2.2004, pp. 1-8)


Judgment of the Court (Fourth Chamber) of 19 November 2009. Christopher Sturgeon, Gabriel Sturgeon and Alana Sturgeon v Condor Flugdienst GmbH (C-402/07) and Stefan Böck and Cornelia Lepuschitz v Air France SA (C-432/07). References for a preliminary ruling: Bundesgerichtshof — Germany and Handelsgericht Wien — Austria. Air transport — Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 — Article 2(l) and Articles 5, 6 and 7 — Concept of flight ‘delay’ and ‘cancellation’ — Right to compensation in the event of delay — Concept of ‘extraordinary circumstances’. Joined cases C-402/07 and C-432/07.

last update 02.06.2020