Whether a delay comes within the terms of the Regulation depends upon the distance of the route involved and the delay itself must be at least 2 hours. The Regulation shall apply to:
(a) delays of two hours or more in the case of flights of 1500km or less;
(b) delays of three hours or more in the case of all intra-Community flights of more than 1500k, and of all other flights between 1500 and 3500km;
(c) delays of four hours or more in the case of all other flights.
The operating air carrier must provide care and assistance in the event of such delays. This must consist of the following:
- Information: the air carrier shall provide a written notice setting out the rules for assistance in line with the Regulation. In addition, a sign must be displayed at the check-in area referring to air passenger rights under the Regulation.
- Meals and refreshments shall be offered free of charge and in reasonable relation to the waiting time.
- Hotel accommodation shall be provided where a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary, as well as transport between the hotel and the place of accommodation.
- Communications: passengers shall be offered free of charge two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or emails.
- Reimbursement: where the flight delay is at least five hours, passengers shall be offered reimbursement within seven days of the full cost of the ticket at the price at which it was bought for the part or parts of the journey not completed. If however, the purpose of the journey is no longer attainable, then reimbursement must be offered for the part of the journey already made, e.g. a flight from Cork to Dublin will be reimbursed if the purpose of the flight was to travel on a connecting flight to London for a function at which attendance is no longer possible due to the delay. In addition there is a right to a return flight to the original point of departure where relevant. The right to reimbursement applies where the passenger decides not to travel as a result of the delay – it is not possible to travel and also claim reimbursement under the Regulation.
If the airline is unable to provide the above provisions free of charge, the airline should reimburse passengers for expenses incurred.
Although the Regulation itself does not expressly state that compensation is payable in cases of delay, the ruling delivered by the European Court of Justice in the cases of Sturgeon -v- Condor Flugdienst GmbH and Bock and Others -v- Air France SA maintains that compensation may be payable to passengers who arrive at their destinations 3 hours or more after the scheduled arrival time.
The amount of compensation which may be payable in the aforementioned circumstances depends on the distance of the flight, the reason for the delay and, in the case of point (c) above, it may be reduced by 50% where the delay on arrival was less than 4 hours.
If an airline can prove that the delay was caused by an extraordinary circumstance which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures were taken, no compensation will be payable.
Examples of events which may constitute extraordinary circumstances can be found here.
As previously stated, the distance of a flight determines the amount of compensation due.
If the flight distance is:
- 1500km or less the amount payable is €250
- 1500km – 3500km and all EU flights over 3500km the amount payable is €400
- 3500km or more the amount payable is €600.
It is very important to note that compensation is distinct from and separate to the notion of reimbursement of expenses and/ or the refund of the cost of an unused flight ticket.