Continued disruption possible as ash cloud poses an ongoing risk

(16 May 2010)

In the event that a flight is cancelled or delayed as a result of the volcanic ash plume currently entering Irish air space it is important to bear in mind that, notwithstanding the extraordinary nature of such events, passengers scheduled to travel on the affected flight have significant rights and entitlements under EC Regulation No. 261/ 2004.

Regulation 261 establishes common rules on assistance to passengers in the event of flight cancellations and long flight delays. It states that where a flight is cancelled with no prior notice, passengers are entitled to:

  • be informed of their legal rights under the Regulation by the airline;
  • access to telephone, fax, telex or other forms of communication;

and the choice between the following the following three options:

  • an alternative flight to their destination at the earliest opportunity;
  • an alternative flight at a later date at the passengers convenience (subject to availability); or
  • a refund of the cost of the unused flight ticket.

Where a passenger chooses the first option (a flight as soon as possible) the air carrier is obliged to provide food, refreshments and accommodation (if necessary and in reasonable relation to the waiting time) while waiting on an alternative flight*.

Under the Regulation if a flight is delayed for certain prescribed timeframes (i.e. at least 2 hours for short haul flights and 3 hours for medium haul flights), passengers are entitled to:

  • be informed of their legal entitlements by the airline;
  • food and refreshments in reasonable relation to the waiting time*;
  • two phone calls, telex or fax messages, or emails;
  • accommodation if a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary*;
  • transport between the airport and place of accommodation.

It is important to note that these rights and entitlements apply even though the flight cancellation/ long delay was the result of extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the air carrier i.e. a volcanic ash cloud.

It is also important to note that by virtue of the extraordinary nature of these events, the other significant entitlement afforded to passengers whose flights have been delayed or cancelled under Regulation 261 - compensation - is not deemed payable by air carriers in these circumstances. 

However it should be clarified 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. Whilst the former is not applicable to these circumstances, passengers should review the above information to determine their entitlements in respect of the latter two items.

For more comprehensive information regarding your rights and entitlements under EC Regulation No. 261/ 2004 please click here. Alternatively please contact us on 1890 787 787.


 *If the scale of the disruption is very widespread i.e. a significant number of flights  is affected, it may not be possible for the air carrier to arrange meals, refreshments and accomodation for every passenger. In such cases it is recommended that passengers arrange these items for themselves and retain the receipts. These receipts can later be submitted to the air carrier for reimbursement.

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