No financial compensation is to be paid by the airline if it can prove that the delay or flight cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances, which could not be avoided despite all reasonable measures that had been taken. But when are circumstances 'exceptional' and when are they not?
What does the airline mean by extraordinary circumstances?
Extraordinary circumstances can be the reason for:
- Adverse weather conditions;
- A decision made by the air traffic control that leads to delays or cancellations;
- Unexpected flight safety problems and strikes (by ground staff and/or air traffic control) that have consequences for the flight operations of the operating airline;
- A collision between the aircraft and birds (bird strike) causes damage to the aircraft;
- Political circumstances (warfare and civil unrest);
- Medical emergency landings.
* A strike from a luggage handler is an extraordinary circumstance. A strike by society itself is not an extraordinary circumstance.
Am I not entitled to anything in case of extraordinary circumstances?
Of course you are! When your flight is delayed or canceled due to extraordinary circumstances, the airline must still fulfill a number of obligations:
- Providing assistance in relation to your flight problem
- Offering an alternative flight (possibly with another airline)
- Or refund your ticket
Did you not receive any assistance from the airline? Then be sure to keep all payment receipts for meals, drinks, hotel stays and airport transfer and add them to your claim.
Right to assistance
Your right to assistance as an airline passenger means that you are entitled to (a) meal (s), drinks, hotel accommodation and airport transfer, in proportion to the severity and duration of the flight problem. For example, a hotel stay only applies when a stay of one or more nights (possibly on top of the originally planned stay) becomes necessary. If you do not get assistance from the airline, you can keep track of all your payment receipts to recover (part of) your costs afterwards.
Note that costs for lost hotel stays, planned activities, car rental, paid parking places and the like can often not be recovered. Under the European Regulation, the airline is only required to reimburse meals, drinks, hotel accommodation and airport transfer - in proportion to the duration and severity of your delay.
An alternative flight
As a passenger you have a sales contract with the airline. That means that they have committed themselves to bringing you from one location to another. Even when exceptional circumstances arise, the airline must keep this promise.
If your flight is canceled due to an extraordinary circumstance such as strikes from third parties or an ominous storm, then the airline must offer you an alternative flight to reach your destination.
Did you know that this flight can also take place via another airline? Many airlines have mutual cooperation agreements. Even if the airline you were flying with could not offer a flight yourself, you better keep insisting on a place on board another flight, with another company. Only in this way can you (often without too much loss of time) obtain an alternative flight without additional costs and reach your destination within a reasonable period of time.
We hear you thinking "Why go through all that trouble, if you can also book another flight yourself?". Many travelers are convinced that when they themselves book a new flight, they will be able to recover these costs from the airline afterwards. Some companies even take it a step further by confirming (usually by telephone) that they will do this. Nothing could be further from the truth. According to the European Regulation, airlines cannot be obliged to reimburse the additional cost of self-booked alternative flights.
So our advice is "better prevention than cure" and experience tells us that passengers who are well-informed usually also get what they are entitled to.
Refund of your ticket
Does the airline really fail to offer you a sufficient alternative? Or have you decided to travel with an alternative means of transport? Then you can still choose to have your original ticket refunded.
Please note that it is more difficult to discover this price with some airlines, because you have purchased a package price or a ticket there and back. So try to check exactly what you have paid before accepting a certain refund.
Once you have accepted the refund, the sales agreement will be dissolved and you will no longer be able to charge costs to the airline company.
Is your situation not clarified?
In some cases, it is not clear whether or not there were extraordinary circumstances. Therefore we recommend you to submit your claim to us. In that way, we can examine the case and you avoid the chance of losing a favorable compensation.