The Regulation introduces a three-tier system:

  • in the event of long delays (two hours or more, depending on the distance of the flight), passengers must in every case be offered free meals and refreshments plus two free telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails;
  • if the time of departure is deferred until the next day, passengers must also be offered hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the place of accommodation;

when the delay is five hours or longer, passengers may opt for reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure.

Important rulings

The 4 September, 2014 the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on a definition for arriving at a destination. Articles 2, 5 and 7 of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91, must be interpreted as meaning that the concept of ‘arrival time’, which is used to determine the length of the delay to which passengers on a flight have been subject, refers to the time at which at least one of the doors of the aircraft is opened, the assumption being that, at that moment, the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft.

In a ruling, November 2009, the Court of Justice of the European Union changed the interpretation of Regulation (EC) 261/2004 regarding flight delays, to include cash compensation similar to flight cancellations if the delay is three hours or longer at the destination. However, this unless the airline can prove that the delay was caused by ‘extraordinary’ circumstances.

 Before the ruling cash compensation was only rewarded for cancelled flights but not for delays. 
Flight delays prior to the ruling gave the passenger the right to assistance free of charge as mentioned above. These rights still apply to the air passengers when faced with a delay.

This Regulation is applicable to all worldwide airlines when departure takes place within the EU and, in the case of flights from outside the EU to a destination within the EU, only to airlines licensed in a Member State of the EU.

How to complain

Regulation (EC) No 261/2004

Baggage claims

The Montreal Convention - air carrier liability in the event of damage caused to passengers, baggage or goods during international journeys.

Up & down grading

Reimbursement apply if an operating air carrier places a passenger in a class lower than that for which the ticket was purchased.

New Guidelines on EC 261/2004

New interpretation guidelines to clarify existing rules. (English only)


Responsive web design. Works on all platforms and devices.