Hands up: Who of you has ever struggled with a flight delay or even a complete flight cancellation and in this situation knew exactly how to behave correctly in order to receive compensation from the airline in the end? Nobody? Great, because neither do we. Fortunately, it has turned out relatively lightly for us so far and apart from a few hours delay nothing bad has happened, but that could have been different. Especially if you miss your connecting flight, the accommodation has already been paid for at the place of arrival or you have planned the start of a road trip or exciting adventure and now have to let all bookings expire, this is just extremely annoying and can really cost you money.

How exactly do your rights look in the event of a flight delay, a flight cancellation or a rebooking of your flight? What is the airline allowed to do, what do you have to accept and where can you get compensation? In this article, we will tell you all of this and how you should behave correctly in a specific case in order to get your money in the end.

Passenger rights: know your rights

In the event of a flight delay, cancellation or short-term rebooking to your disadvantage, there is a legally guaranteed right to compensation. This has been regulated for several years by the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation ( EU-VO-261/2004 ), which ensures that you have to be provided for by the airline during the delay (e.g. with food, drinks or the possibility of making calls, whatever can be very expensive abroad). But the best thing is: You are also entitled to financial compensation from the airline! In addition to any services already provided by the airline, such as hotel accommodation or meals. The amount of compensation varies between € 250 and € 600 and is always based on how much delay your flight will ultimately reach the destination airport.

What exactly do the requirements for compensation look like if your flight was delayed and what should be considered in the specific case so that you are not left empty-handed in the end?

Compensation for flight delay, flight cancellation or rebooking of the flight: Requirements according to the EU Air Passenger Rights Ordinance

Flight in the EU or EU airline

First things first: The Air Passenger Rights Regulation only applies to the European Union. In concrete terms, this means that the flight must be attributable to the EU . This means that the flight must either run within the member states of the European Union or take off or land in a country of the EU. For the latter, i.e. a plane that only lands in the EU but did not take off there, the airline must also be based in the EU. British Airways will be out soon ?

The important thing is where you booked the flight. For example, if you have booked with Lufthansa, but the flight is then carried out via code share, e.g. by United Airlines, it is still considered an EU flight – if it starts or lands at least within the EU. Under EU in the sense of the Air Passenger Rights Ordinance, the 28 EU countries including some overseas departments are to be understood, here is a detailed overview of the countries.

It’s the airline’s fault

Furthermore, and this is very important, the delay, flight cancellation or rebooking of your flight must not be due to exceptional circumstancesbe due. This term is a bit vague at first. Put simply: the delay must be the responsibility of the airline or the airport and could have been avoided. In the event of terrorist attacks, natural disasters or strikes, you should of course not expect compensation, but the airline will rebook you at short notice due to overbooking, for example. In short: if the airline is not responsible for the delay, it does not have to pay any compensation. That’s why airlines usually look for such vague reasons to avoid paying compensation to stranded passengers. Don’t let yourself be fooled here, butIt is best to have the reason for the delay confirmed in writing immediately.

What if the flight is canceled or rebooked?

If your flight is not only delayed, but also completely canceled, the same rules apply as for flight delays. Here, too, you are of course entitled to compensation. If your flight is rebooked, this question can no longer be answered in such a general way and it depends on the consideration of the specific individual case. If you are notified of the cancellation or rebooking more than 14 days before the flight, you can request a refund of the ticket price, but you are not entitled to compensation for the time being. If, on the other hand, the flight cancellation is only communicated at short notice, you are again entitled to compensation if the replacement flight offered to you reaches its destination late.

Flight delay compensation: you are entitled to it

But now butter for the fish: How much money and what benefits are you entitled to if your flight is delayed? The amount of the compensation basically depends on two factors: 1. The length of the flight route and 2. the duration of the delay.

For a short flight of up to 1,500 km you will receive 250 euros if you are delayed by three hours. If the flight is longer than 1,500 km, the amount of the compensation is at least 400 euros. For a flight that is longer than 3,500 km and which is delayed by more than 4 hours, you will even get 600 €.

Already for a delay of two hours you are so-called support services to. Regardless of who is to blame for the delay. That means you have to get food, drinks and food at the airport. That is not exactly regulated in individual cases, it also depends a little on the circumstances. Don’t expect a menu, but the airline should provide basic supplies. You are also entitled to free calls and emails so that you can deal with the delay (calls to the hotel, the rental car rental company or loved ones at home who have to pick you up). If the trip is pushed back so far due to the delay that the flight can only be started on the next day,the airline has to accommodate you in a hotel and organize the shuttle service there. This can quickly become a major issue, especially with connecting flights.

How to behave correctly in the event of a flight delay or flight cancellation

Secure evidence

In order for you to be able to exercise your right to compensation, there are a few things to consider. In an emergency, that can make the difference between winning and losing, because you have to be able to prove that you are entitled to the claim. Logically this starts with the fact that you should keep all documents . Regardless of whether the delay occurs before boarding or in the air, try to have the reason for the delay confirmed in writing on site . The airline or the customer service representative at the airport must certify that the delay is not due to “exceptional circumstances”. Perhaps the employees will avoid it with vague statements or provide a flimsy reason, for example “strong winds”, but that is not enough. It must be a tangible circumstance that was not foreseeable in this form. Incidentally, to preserve evidence, it is advisable to take photos of everything with the (cell phone) camera , i.e. the displays at the airport or the departure boards.

Make a note of all the costs that have been incurred at the airport and keep the receipts here as well . Any extra costs caused by the delay can be reclaimed later, but only if you can prove that you really had these expenses and that they were necessary.

Reject insufficient offers

It is also important to refuse insufficient performance on the part of the airline . The airline offers you to book a higher class at your own expense so that you can still take your overbooked original flight? Or you should stop at another place and you will only continue there after you have paid an overnight stay? Please refuse everything. If you are offered comparison offers that are far below the possible compensation, you should also be skeptical. Always think about what it would cost you at this moment to organize your onward journey. If the amount is significantly more expensive than the possible compensation, the comparison is rejected. The most important thing is: Please do not sign anything on site!Otherwise you run the risk of foregoing possible claims and payments. The airlines know exactly about the imminent compensation payments and will usually not offer you anything with which you are better off ?

Stay friendly

With all this stress, it is important to remain friendly and nice. A flight delay also means stress for airport employees and friendliness can really work wonders here. In case of delay, make your point of view clear, decline insufficient offers, but don’t get bad tempered. There is also a very pragmatic background to this: if you get quarrelsome or quick-tempered at the counter, the airline can refuse you boarding. The airline must assess each passenger as to whether they could pose a potential danger to those on board. If, in the opinion of the staff, you are clearly misbehaving, you may be refused transport. It sure doesn’t happen very often, but there is an option.

Air passenger rights: How to get your money if your flight is delayed

So, the child has now fallen into the well: your flight was delayed or canceled completely, you had a lot of stress on site and a lot of costs. How do you get your money now? Basically there are three different ways in which you can claim both the costs incurred and the compensation to which you are entitled under the Air Passenger Rights Ordinance. That’s how it works!

Claim compensation for flight delays yourself

The most obvious way is to contact the airline directly for compensation. To do this, you should first calculate how high your own demands are. To assert your claim, you can  download and fill out a sample form . Although this route is the direct one and is possible without additional costs, the experience of many travelers shows that the prospect of success is very slim. The airlines are usually cross or deaf and simply do not react. Be prepared for extensive correspondence and expect to have to claim your claim with the help of a lawyer. This in turn is associated with further costs and also with the risk of going out of the thing at a loss.

Use the SÖP as an intermediary

If the airline refuses or plays dead, you can call in arbitrators. The Arbitration Board for Public Transport (SÖP), which can check and mediate the claim, helps . However, this arbitration procedure will take some time, unfortunately we cannot say anything about the chances of success of this procedure. In any case, there are no further costs.

Enforce passenger rights with the help of professional service providers

Over the years, many professional service providers have established themselves who strive for the rights of passengers by collecting compensation claims from the airline themselves. This means that a success commission is due for the respective service provider (usually around 25% of the compensation amount), but all of the work is done for you. Since lawyers who specialize in travel law sit on the part of the professional providers, the chance of a successful payment is much higher than if you tried it yourself. With all providers, the commission is only due in the event of success , ie you will not incur any costs until then.

The basic offer of all these service providers is basically almost identical: with Fairplane, for example, you pay 24.5% of the compensation amount in the event of success, with Flug-verspaetet.deit is 25% (plus VAT). With this basic offer you usually have to wait 8-10 weeks for your money. If you would like to have your money immediately without waiting, the world looks a little different: You assign your claims in full to the service provider with immediate effect and of course that means an increased risk for the service provider because he cannot yet assess the chances of success. For you this means that you have to pay a correspondingly higher commission for this speed variant, usually between 35 and 50%. So if you choose this option because you want to have the compensation immediately, you should look carefully when choosing the provider.

Think about the statute of limitations

The right to compensation for flight delays or entire flight cancellations applies not only to flights that have just taken place, but also to previous flights. Limitation is the keyword! A limitation period of three years according to § 195 BGB applies to these claims from the past. So think about whether you haven’t had a flight with a long delay in the last few years. The anger you had with it at the time could now turn into small earnings. The only important thing is that all documents and documents are still available for this flight so that you can prove that you actually booked this flight at the time and that there were problems with it. Whether you are still entitled to compensation payments for flights in the past, You can check with most providers with a few clicks directly on the homepage, just like with flights that were not long ago. If the machine spits out a positive result – go for it! ?

Self-inflicted flight cancellation? You can do this if you need to cancel your flight

At this point we would like to deal with a small special case that many of you are probably not aware of. Have you ever been in the situation that you have booked a non-cancelable ticket for cost reasons (of course without cancellation or cancellation insurance) and then it happens – you cannot or do not want to take the flight under any circumstances. Either because you are really sick, a hurricane has just swept over your holiday destination, your dog is sick or your friends have chosen exactly this one for their wedding 365 days a year, which falls in the middle of your vacation – JUHU! And now? If it is up to the airlines, you will be completely or at least partially seated on the cost of the flight. Pretty nasty when you consider that the airline can simply sell your seat again in the event of a ticket cancellation. So what can you do?

Again, there are providers such as Ticket Refund who will help you enforce your contractual right of termination. You can get back a large part of the ticket costs for a commission (usually max. 30% of the price reimbursement), even for tickets that cannot be canceled. However, it is important that you cancel your flight in any case and as soon as possible, ie as soon as you know that you will not be able to take it. If you simply let the flight expire, you unfortunately have no chance of a refund. The same applies here: Even flights canceled some time ago are still refundable – you can have the relevant providers checked what works and what doesn’t.

Restrictions on passenger rights and compensation at Ryanair: are they allowed to do so?

Some of you may have noticed: The airline Ryanair hit the headlines in mid-2016 with a change to its general terms and conditions. Accordingly, passengers were unceremoniously prohibited from assigning compensation claims to third parties in the event of delays or cancellations. This means that Ryanair has prohibited its passengers from making claims with the help of the service providers described above . Unbelievable, is not it? So if you wanted to insist on your compensation, you could only claim it personally, with the time and risk involved. However, these GTC changes have since been declared invalid in several legal proceedings. So you don’t have to worry anymore: Even if you flew with Ryanair and had to contend with a delay, you can use the help of professional service providers to collect your compensation within the scope of the passenger rights. Ryanair is not allowed to exclude this route with its terms and conditions!

Passenger rights and compensation payments: our conclusion

For most of us, the topic of air passenger rights seems pretty complicated at first glance, so in this article we have tried to make it as understandable as possible for you. I hope we succeeded. On closer inspection, the topic quickly loses its complexity and when you have the most important points on the screen, nothing can actually go wrong on site at the airport (you can save the table above and take it with you on your travels, then you will know always informed).

Still, collecting your compensation payments on your own can be quite frustrating – not because you’re wrong, but because it’s David versus Goliath. We therefore recommend that you seek professional help from a specialist provider . The airlines know that these providers do not shy away from expensive legal proceedings and therefore usually pay the compensation without objection. That costs you a little commission, but it also saves you all the hassle.

Unfortunately, we ourselves have only had really severe delays outside of the EU and unfortunately haven’t seen a cent for them. What experiences have you already had?

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