Flight cancelled due to Covid-19? Don’t wish or not allowed to travel? Find out about your passenger rights in the EU in these exceptional times.
All EU countries have introduced containment measures - such as travel restrictions, quarantine zones and lock-downs - to deal with the corona pandemic. These measures are having a major impact on the transport sector, so be sure you know your passenger rights.
On 18 March, the European Commission presented detailed guidelines to guarantee that EU passenger rights are applied in a coherent way and passengers are protected across all EU countries.
What if my flight is cancelled?
Airlines cancelling flights have the obligation - in all cases - to offer passengers the following options:
- Re-routing at the earliest convenience
- Re-routing at a later date, chosen by the passenger
If you choose re-routing at the earliest convenience, take into account there may be considerable delays given the limited number of flights that currently operate due to national measures to contain the virus.
Do I have the right to a hotel and meals in case of cancellation?
Air carriers have the obligation - without exception - to provide free meals, refreshments and hotel accommodation for passengers whose flight is cancelled and have chosen re-routing at the earliest convenience.
Am I entitled to compensation?
Air passengers have the right to compensation if their flight is cancelled less than two weeks before the departure date, unless there are "extraordinary circumstances". This exception may apply in the case of the corona outbreak, where the measures taken by public authorities prevent the normal activity of airlines.
What if I want to cancel my trip?
If you cancel your trip on your own initiative, the refund depends on the type of ticket you purchased, as specified in the terms and conditions. Consult the carrier for more details.
I have been offered a voucher instead of a cash reimbursement. What are my rights?
Passengers have the right to choose between vouchers or refunds for all cancelled tickets - including flights, train, bus, coach and ferry - and for travel packages.
According to EU guidelines published on 13 May, vouchers should have a minimum validity period of one year and have to be refunded after maximum one year if they are not used. Transport companies should be flexible, for example allowing passengers to travel on the same route under the same service conditions. Vouchers should also be transferable to another traveller.
The European Union is the only place in the world where everyone travelling by plane, rail, ship and bus are protected by a full set of passenger rights.
Avoiding empty flights
Airport rules oblige airlines to operate most of their take-off and landing slots, if they do not want to lose them the following season.
On Thursday 26 March 2020, Parliament approved the Commission proposal to temporarily suspend EU rules concerning airport slots, in order to stop so-called ghost flights during the pandemic. The adopted measures entered into force retroactively from 1 March 2020 (from 23 January 2020 for flights between the EU and China or Hong Kong).
As the suspension of the “use it or lose it” rule ends on 27 March 2021, Parliament approved an update of the rules on 10 February, allowing airlines to use 50% of their planned take-off and landing slots for the 2021 season (compared to 80% before the pandemic). The Commission can extend these new rules if needed, adjusting the minimum utilisation rate to between 30% and 70%.
- Find out more on what the EU is doing to fight the coronavirus
- Check out the timeline of EU action against Covid-19
- Check out the Facebook live with Karima Delli (Greens, France), chair of Parliament's transport committee, on the EU measures to prevent empty flights