Strikes: Passenger rights in the event of delayed and canceled flights

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Strikes: Passenger rights in the event of delayed and canceled flights

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What rights do passengers have in the event of cancelled and delayed flights?

In the event of flight cancellations and delays due to strikes, passengers have certain rights. Depending on the cause of the flight problem, they may be entitled to a refund of their tickets or lump-sum compensation of between 250 and 600 euros.

Air passenger rights in the event of strikes in brief:

  • Airlines are obliged to organize replacement transport for air passengers at the earliest possible opportunity
  • In the event of long waiting times at the airport, air passengers are entitled to care in the form of drinks, meals, telephone calls, and hotel accommodation
  • If a flight is delayed by more than five hours or canceled completely, passengers can claim back the ticket price.
  • Entitlement to compensation of up to 600 euros, in particular in the case of strikes by airline staff, and in the case of other strikes also due to inadequate measures for rapid replacement transport

In the event of air traffic strikes, disruptions are regularly caused which can be very inconvenient for air travelers. In such cases, airlines are obliged to organize substitute transport for the affected travelers at the earliest possible time. If waiting time at the airport is unavoidable, passengers are entitled to care in the form of drinks, meals, telephone calls, and even hotel accommodation. If the flight is delayed or canceled by more than five hours, those affected can claim back the ticket price and withdraw from the contract. If passengers withdraw from the contract, however, the airline is no longer obliged to transport them. In addition to being entitled to a refund of the ticket price, passengers can also expect compensation payments of 250 to 600 euros in the event of strikes by airline employees. In the case of all other strikes, lump-sum compensation of up to 600 euros is only possible if the airline does not offer passengers the earliest possible alternative transport.

In the event of a flight strike: From when does compensation have to be paid to air passengers?

If the staff of an airline goes on strike, air passengers can claim compensation of up to 600 euros. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in its judgment of 17/04/2018 (Case C-175/17) that a sudden strike by airline staff is not an extraordinary circumstance and that the airline, therefore, owes 250 to 600 euros in compensation depending on the route. However, even if other parties involved in air traffic, such as airport staff or air traffic controllers, go on strike, airlines are not necessarily exempt from paying compensation. Passengers are still entitled to compensation, even if the airlines have not taken all reasonable measures to minimize the consequences of the strike.

When is there no right to compensation?

In the event of a strike that is beyond the airline’s control – such as a work stoppage by airport staff, security personnel or air traffic controllers – passengers are generally not entitled to compensation under the European Air Passenger Rights Regulation if the airlines provide passengers with alternative transport at the earliest opportunity. However, even in such cases, airlines are obliged to organize replacement transport for their passengers without delay. If the fastest possible transport is only possible after the end of the strike, passengers may still be entitled to compensation. Their rights can be easily enforced with the help of air passenger rights portals. If customers have to stay at the airport because of the strike, the airline must pay for costs such as accommodation and meals.

How much compensation can be paid?

In the event of a flight cancellation or a long delay, you are entitled to the following:

  • Short-haul up to 1,500 km: e.g. Berlin – Munich €250*.
  • Medium-haul up to 3,500 km: e.g. Berlin – Lisbon €400*.
  • Long-haul from 3,500 km: e.g. Berlin – Abu Dhabi €600*

*Minus commission (usually 20 to 30 % plus VAT)

What should passengers do in the event of strike-related delays and cancellations?

If passengers are already at the airport of departure and have to wait for their flight, they are entitled to utilities. The care services, such as meals and refreshments, must be in reasonable proportion to the waiting time of the passengers. Passengers have the following rights:

  • Free drinks
  • Free meals
  • Hotel accommodation, if one or more nights stay at the airport, is required
  • Transport, between the airport and the hotel
  • Free means of communication by telephone, fax or email

It seems appropriate to provide free drinks for about one hour of waiting time, small snacks for two hours, and free drinks, meals, and free access to means of communication after four hours.

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