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Compensation if your flight booking is changed

Passengers who are forced to change their booking by the airlines or by their tour operator are entitled to compensation based on the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation. They have the right to receive compensation of up to EUR 600 from the airline under certain conditions.

overbooking and denied boarding at the airport

Why do bookings end up having to be changed?

If your airline moves you to a different flight without asking you, this is often due to flight cancellations, flight delays or a scenario in which your original flight was overbooked. There are certain situations where the airline changes the flight to a smaller aircraft because they didn't sell enough tickets. When that happens, passengers are simply moved to different flights.

What am I entitled to if my booking is changed involuntarily?

  • You are entitled to compensation if you found out about the booking change on short notice and if you arrive at your destination more than 3 hours late
  • The compensation ranges from EUR 250 to EUR 600 per person
  • Additional services like refreshments and meals, if the airline changes your booking once you're at the airport
  • These rights are based on the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation 261/2004
  • You are not entitled to compensation in extraordinary circumstances (strike, fog, storms… Additional information on extraordinary circumstances available below)

What should I do if my flight booking is changed?

  • Get the airline to provide you with confirmation of the reasons for the change in booking
  • Collect proof: photos, receipts documenting any expense incurred, tickets, vouchers
  • Exchange contact details with other passengers
  • Insist on receiving food and refreshments at the airport
  • Calculate your entitlement to compensation with our help
  • Make the most of our legal expertise: we’ll help you get your money back

Am I entitled to compensation?

You could be entitled to financial compensation if your flight booking is changed by the airline. You are entitled to compensation not only if your booking was changed at very short notice, but also if you found out about it before embarking on your trip (judgment of the German Federal Court of Justice, case ref.: X ZR 34/14).If the flight that you are moved to is more than 3 hours later than your original flight, then this is deemed to constitute denied boarding. The same applies if you are denied boarding because your original flight was overbooked or was cancelled without replacement.

Important information: Passengers are entitled to denied boarding compensation if they are denied the opportunity to fly although they checked in on time, all of their travel documents were complete and there were no security or health risks for the flight or other passengers.

Did you check in on time?

In order to receive denied boarding compensation, you must have checked in on time. The German Federal Court of Justice, however, recently passed a mild ruling on check-in in the interests of consumers (case reference X ZR 34/14): If the airline previously made it absolutely clear that the passenger would be denied boarding on the booked flight then, according to the Federal Court of Justice, passengers do not have to travel to the airport - but are nevertheless entitled to compensation.

We nevertheless recommend that you travel to the airport, especially in cases involving flights that are rebooked on short notice. If the airline offers you an alternative flight that will depart soon and you cannot take it because you are not at the airport, then you are not entitled to compensation. Even if passengers are faced with long waiting periods, they should not leave the gate area in case they miss information on flight handling changes made on short notice.

Money back if your booking is changed

Thanks to the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation, passengers are entitled to compensation if they are Denied boarding against their will. The compensation ranges from EUR 250 to EUR 600 - depending on the total distance of the flight. You can now check free of charge what you are entitled to if your booking is changed.

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How much compensation will you receive if your booking is changed?

If the airline is at fault, passengers are entitled to compensation. The amount of compensation is based on the total distance covered by the flight:

  • EUR 250 for flights covering a distance of less than 1,500 km.
  • EUR 250 for flights covering a distance of less than 1,500 km.
  • EUR 250 for flights covering a distance of less than 1,500 km.

It doesn’t matter how much your flight cost. Passengers flying with low-cost airlines are also protected by the EU Regulation and are entitled to compensation as a result.

How do I get my compensation?

Often times if you try attempt to submit your claim with the airlines, their customer service team doesn't react or they deny the claim. That's why many passengers give up on their right to compensation. With a legal expert like Flightright by your side, your compensation claims have a good chance of success. We have already negotiated with 318 airlines and won more than EUR 100 million for our customers to date.

Exception: extraordinary circumstances

There is no doubt that airlines are responsible for flight booking changes. But there are other deviations from the flight schedule that they cannot be held responsible for. If extraordinary circumstances arise, then the airlines are not obliged to pay compensation to passengers.

Extraordinary circumstances include the following scenarios:

  • The closure of the airport or airspace
  • Political unrest, terrorism, security risks that cannot be avoided
  • Bad weather such as fog, hail, storms and heavy snow
  • Strike
  • Bird strike

Although these circumstances exempt airlines from compensating their passengers, it is also the airline's responsibility to prevent flight cancellations and delays to the best of their abilities. More specifically, during the on-set of winter airlines must be ready to gather sufficient supplies of de-icer. In cases like these, the airline itself is responsible for the delay. But it’s not easy to prove that the airline is at fault unless you are an expert. We at Flightright, analyse specialised flight databases containing hundreds of thousands of flight movements and weather data and have watertight arguments that will stand up in court. We win 98% of all cases that go to court. Make the most of our legal expertise to get what you are entitled to if your booking is changed.

food and refreshments in case of overbooking

You are also always entitled to food and refreshments

Passengers whose bookings are changed spontaneously, and who waited at the airport for more than 2 hours, are entitled to food and refreshments - irrespective of any potential compensation payment. It doesn’t matter what caused the cancellation and whether the airline itself is to blame for the change in booking or not - you are always entitled to food and refreshments if your flight booking is changed involuntarily.

Passengers who have to wait for 2 hours or more have to receive drinks and snacks, or a bigger meal if they are faced with a longer waiting period. You are also entitled to two free telephone calls, faxes or e-mails.

If you are already at the airport when you find out that you have been rebooked on a flight the next day, the airline has to provide you with hotel accommodation and pay for your tran sfers to and from the airport. Airlines usually book this overnight accommodation themselves and then provide you with the details. So speak to the airline first before you go ahead and book a hotel yourself.

If the alternative flight that you are moved to arrives at your destination more than 5 hours later than the flight you had originally booked, then you can opt not to fly at all and to receive a refund for the price of your ticket.

IMPORTANT: Even if the airline has already provided you with food and drinks vouchers or travel vouchers, you are still entitled to compensation.

Compensation if business trip flight bookings are changed

If you miss a business meeting because you were moved to a different flight, then you may be entitled to compensation subject to certain conditions. If business travellers are moved to a different flight that arrives at their destination much later or earlier than originally planned, this can often cause a great deal of stress and inconvenience. Depending on the flight distance covered, business travellers are entitled to compensation of up to EUR 600 if their flight is delayed by more than three hours. The airline itself, however, has to be responsible for the delay.

The compensation goes to the employee and not the employer - even if the employer booked and paid for the flight as part of the business trip. All you need to know is the date of the flight and the flight route.

It takes 6 years for your claims to become statute-barred

You keep your compensation claims for involuntary booking changes for a period of six years. After that, the limitation period expires. Passengers can assert their claims for a period of six years - counted from the end of the year in which the claim arose. It doesn’t matter whether the airlines set their own shorter periods in their General Terms and Conditions of Business. The 6-year period is decisive.

So it might be worth thinking about when you were last faced with a delayed flight. You might still be entitled to compensation for “old” flights. Use our free initial evaluation to find out whether or not you are entitled to compensation and how much you can claim.

Checklist: Are you entitled to cash compensation?

You are only entitled to compensation for involuntary booking changes if all of these criteria are met:

  • Your arrival at your destination is delayed for more than 3 hours
  • You checked in for your flight on time (generally 45 minutes before departure)
  • Your flight booking was changed less than 6 years ago
  • The airline is responsible for the change in booking
  • Your flight takes off from an EU airport or you landed at an EU airport (airline is headquartered in the EU
  • You did NOT book a free/reduced fare that is not available to the public
  • You had a confirmed booking and ticket (incl. free/reduced tickets under customer loyalty/promotional programmes)
  • Applies to passengers travelling independently/on package holidays, low-cost airlines, business travellers and children on paid tickets
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