passangers rights

The European Regulation 261/2004 of the EU: Passengers Rights

European Regulation Montreal Convention
Applies only to delays, cancellations, and denied boarding (overbooking) when the airline is European, or if you depart from a European country even if the airline is not European.

For baggage incidents, the Montreal Convention always applies.

It applies only to delays, cancellations, denied boarding (overbooking) when the airline is neither European nor departing from a European country.

Additionally, it applies to all baggage incidents, even if it’s a European airline or departs from a European country.

Once this difference is clarified, before delving into the legal details, it is crucial to note that:

Although the law is clear, according to statistics from over 10,000 claims on our platform, if a passenger tries to claim on their own, they will find that airlines systematically reject claims.

Here are some of the most important points to consider for making an informed decision and assessing whether you should claim on your own or with a specialised lawyer from Lexority:

If you are considering claiming under European Regulation 261/2004 on your own, you should know…

  • According to the European Regulation, the probability that a passenger attempts to claim under the European Regulation on their own and doesn’t know how to do it, fails to contact the airline, or gives up due to bureaucracy is 54%.
  • Affected individuals who manage to contact to claim under the European Regulation, 83% have spent more than 40 minutes filling out the form.
  • Among those who filled out the form, 22% of affected individuals encountered an issue during submission, 34% faced at least 2 issues, 13% up to 3 issues, and 31% more than 5 times during the claim process.
  • The probability that an affected passenger overcomes this step and can claim for the delay on their own and does not receive a response is 23%. This is known as administrative silence.
  • If a response is received, which happens in 77% of cases, the probability of being compensated according to what the law stipulates under the European Regulation is 5%.
  • The average compensation obtained by clients when they make the claim themselves under the European Regulation is 28% lower than those obtained by

It is therefore possible to deduce that the probability of a passenger resolving the incident on their own and receiving partial compensation (28% lower than what is obtained by, after multiple errors in form submission and spending 40 minutes, is 5%.

Reasons to claim with Lexority under the European Regulation

  • European Regulation has a success rate of 98%, either through extrajudicial means or judicial proceedings.
  • The average rating from affected individuals who have trusted to handle their case is 9.6 out of 10. These evaluations cannot be modified and are recorded on Trustpilot.
  • See here the reviews of The average compensation obtained per case is 28% higher than what passengers obtain on their own.

With these points clarified, let’s delve into the details…

Preceding considerations of the EU Regulation 261/2004

  • Its main objective is to ensure passenger safety as consumers and thus establishes guarantees.
  • It applies to both scheduled and non-scheduled or combined flights and only to fixed-wing motor aircraft.
  • The protection of the regulation is broadened as it considers the origin and destination of the flight, as well as the nationality of the airline to determine the application of this regulation.
  • The regulation also obliges the air carrier proposing to operate the flight, with its own or leased aircraft, with or without crew.
  • This regulation aims to reduce the number of passengers who are denied boarding, requiring the carrier to offer benefits during an appropriate period before the flight, or fair compensation if the passenger is ultimately denied boarding.
  • It also offers the passenger affected by denied boarding the option to cancel the flight, with a refund of the amount paid for the ticket(s), or to continue the flight under favourable conditions for the passenger.
  • For passengers whose flight is cancelled, the airline must offer alternative transportation for the contracted flight, which must be reasonable. If the cancellation is due to extraordinary circumstances, the carrier is not obliged to compensate the passenger for the inconvenience caused, although it must offer alternatives to reach their destination.
  • These circumstances may include serious political instability, weather conditions preventing flight, strikes related to the aviation sector (airline staff strikes are not included according to the CJEU and can be claimed), and in-flight security deficiencies. NOTE* Consult a flight claim specialist to determine whether you can claim if you believe your flight has been subject to an “extraordinary circumstance”.
  • Each EU member state establishes sanctions for violations, but these sanctions must be effective, proportionate to the case, and must deter carriers from repeating this regulation.
  • EU member states must designate bodies responsible for ensuring compliance with this regulation without affecting the rights of passengers and carriers.
  • Regulation 261 aims to establish passengers’ rights for cases of denied boarding, cancellation, or delay exceeding a specified time.

Elements consideres by EU Regulation 261/2004

1- Carrier

Any company dedicated to air transport holding a license for its activity. It is not only those who operate the flight; they can also plan it by booking a passenger on behalf of another person or company. Carriers can be scheduled or charter depending on their license.

2- Ticket

Any document granting the passenger the right to transport, which can be a digital document, but must always be issued by the carrier.

3- Reservation

Preceding the possession of the ticket, any document demonstrating that the transport company has accepted the passenger and that they acquire the right to the reservation.

4- Final destination

This is the airport or aerodrome of destination stated on the customer’s ticket. Alternative flights are not considered if the arrival time at the destination coincides with the initially scheduled one.

5- Denied boarding

For such a denial to occur, it is necessary for the passenger to be entitled to this flight and to have presented themselves for boarding. Denied boarding may be due to health and/or safety reasons or the presentation of inappropriate documents.

6- Volunteer

A person who meets the boarding requirements and who, at the carrier’s request, agrees to relinquish their reservation in exchange for some form of compensation.

7- Cancellation

Failure to operate a flight that was scheduled and for which there was at least one reservation.

Scope of the European Regulation

  • For this regulation to apply, it is necessary for passengers to have a reservation and to check in if requested by the airline, with a minimum notice of 45 minutes.
  • It will also apply to passengers transferred from one flight to another. The regulation does not apply to passengers travelling for free or with tickets not available to the public, but it applies to passengers with tickets priced lower than usual as regular users or obtained through commercial programmes.
  • This regulation does not include any provisions regarding baggage loss; for such incidents, the Montreal Convention must be consulted, as well as for cases where the carrier is not a member of the EU.

Denied Boarding according to the European Regulation

In these cases, the carrier must first ask one or more volunteers to give up their reservations in exchange for certain benefits. If the number of volunteers does not meet the airline’s needs, it may deny boarding to passengers against their will. In this latter case, the carrier must compensate these passengers immediately.

Flight Cancellation according to the European Regulation

In this case, the carrier is obligated to assist passengers affected by the cancellation. The carrier must offer affected passengers an alternative flight with departure the day after the cancelled flight. Affected passengers will be entitled to compensation in the following cases:

  • If the cancellation is notified less than two weeks in advance.
  • If the cancellation is notified between one and two weeks in advance and an alternative flight is offered.
  • If the cancellation is notified less than one week in advance and an alternative flight is offered with a variation of more than one hour from the scheduled flight. If the cancellation is due to extraordinary circumstances, the carrier is not obligated to compensate affected passengers. In all cases, it is always the carrier’s responsibility to inform passengers of the reasons for the flight cancellation.

Flight Delay according to the European Regulation

A flight will be considered delayed if, compared to its scheduled departure time:

  • Delay of more than two hours for flights up to 1,500 kilometres.
  • Delay of more than three hours for intra-community flights or flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres.
  • Delay of more than four hours for any other flight. The airline will always be responsible for providing assistance to affected passengers.

Right to Compensation according to the European Regulation

The right to compensation for affected passengers will depend on the distance of the scheduled flight.

  • For flights up to 1,500 kilometres, the passenger will be entitled to compensation of up to €250.
  • For intra-community flights or distances between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres, the passenger will be entitled to compensation of up to €400.
  • For flights exceeding the previous distances, the passenger will be entitled to compensation of up to €600.

Compensation Table according to EU Regulation 261/2004 for claiming a low-cost flight

Distance in KmCompensation for Delay
Less than 1500 km€250
Between 1500 and 3500 km€400
More than 3500 km€600

In cases where passengers are offered an alternative flight by the airline, which does not exceed two hours in the first case, three hours in the second case, or four hours in the third case, compensations could be reduced by up to 50%. ** These distances are calculated by the great circle route (the shortest path between two points, the straight line).

Right to Refund according to the European Regulation

The refund will be made for the full amount of the ticket for the delayed flight and within one week. This refund will be made via bank transfer, electronic bank transfer, cheque, or in cash. Refund can also be received in the form of travel vouchers or similar services, if the affected passenger and the airline agree on this.

Right to Alternative Flight according to the European Regulation

In the event that the affected passenger opts for an alternative flight, the following scenarios may occur:

1. The passenger’s travel itinerary has been significantly disrupted, and they do not intend to continue it, so they may request a flight back to the original airport

2. The passenger intends to continue their travel itinerary, so they may request transportation under comparable conditions to their destination as soon as possible or based on available seats. In the case where the destination is a city with multiple airports, the passenger may request transportation to the original destination airport or to an agreed point with the airline.

Right to Assistance according to the European Regulation

In the event that the passenger is affected by flight cancellation or prolonged delay, they will be entitled to receive food and beverages depending on the waiting time. They may also request accommodation (usually a hotel) if they have to spend one or more nights outside of their scheduled journey.

The passenger will also have the right to two phone calls, telexes, fax messages, or emails at no cost. In all cases, the airline will be obligated to pay special attention to passengers with reduced mobility.

Case of class change according to the European Regulation

In the event that the airline assigns the passenger to a class lower than that indicated on the reserved and paid ticket, the airline must refund within seven days:

  • 30% of the ticket amount for flights up to 1,500 kilometres.
  • 50% of the ticket amount for intra-community flights or distances between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres.
  • 75% of the ticket amount for distances exceeding the previous ones.

Other considerations regarding the European Regulation

This regulation does not contain any provisions regarding claims for moral damages or harm. However, it is possible (and this is what we do at to claim them. In principle, the European Regulation does not quantify moral damages; it will be the lawyers at Lexority who will do so.