The European Commission adopted new air passengers rights guidelines that will clarify the existing rules and facilitate their application.

Connecting flights

Passengers have a right to compensation after a delay of 3 hours at the final destination. Travelers, who missed a connection within the EU, or outside the EU with a flight coming from an airport of a Member State, should be entitled to compensation, if they arrived at final destination with a delay of more than 3 hours. Whether the carrier operating the connecting flights is an EU carrier or not it is not relevant.

Flight Cancellations

If a flight takes off and “for whatever reason, being subsequently forced to return to the airport of departure where the passengers of the said aircraft are transferred onto other flights” it is considered a cancellation. 

Also, if a flight is diverted to an alternate airport, it is considered as a cancelation, unless passengers are rerouted to the final destination later or the alternate airport is in the same city and the transportation to the original airport is provided. 

Extraordinary circumstances

A mechanical fault of an aircraft, plane collisions with other aircraft/devices are not considered as "extraordinary circumstances" meaning that airlines cannot be exempted from the payment of compensation in case of a cancellation and delay.

"The guidelines published today will bring further clarity and legal certainty to ensure that the rules are applied properly. All EU citizens travelling by plane should receive the level of protection they are entitled to," said Violeta Bulc, EU Commissioner for Transport .

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the new guidelines but stated there is more to be done. “Everybody is frustrated when travel plans are disrupted. Passenger rights should be fair, simple, consistently applied and aligned with global standards. Todays’ guidelines will help with the consistent application. That’s an important step, but follow-up is needed. More dialogue is needed to address remaining fundamental problems with the regulation,” IATA DG and CEO Tony Tyler said.

The European Commission stated that the guidelines will help facilitate air travel for passengers and thus assist air carriers and their agents to improve the application of the Regulation. They will also assist national authorities with the enforcement of the Regulation and ensure an equal level playing field for all air carriers.

The European Commission ’s guidance can be found here.