Imagine this – you find yourself in an airport, irritated by the news that your flight was cancelled, delayed or overbooked. Under EU Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004, you are entitled to compensation if the disruption was within the control of the airline and you were delayed for more than 3 hours. Unfortunately, without even knowing it, passengers might jeopardize their right to claim. So when are we putting our compensations at risk?
The safest way to go about things is to check-in online. Unfortunately, some airports still require passengers to check-in at the airport. Usually, there are clear check-in deadlines. We understand that there are thousands of reasons why one might be late for check-in. However, late check-in might strip you of the right to claim flight compensation. A late check-in changes the status of the passenger into “no show.” If you miss the flight or are denied boarding because of late check-in, you are not entitled to compensation. You might not even be able to get a refund for your ticket. You should always check in on time, generally no less than 45 minutes before departure. And again, we HIGHLY recommend you always check the rules of your airline.
Late to a connecting flight
Your rights depend on the way the connecting flight was booked. If the flight is a part of a single reservation and the delay on the first leg caused you to get to your destination 3 or more hours late, you are entitled to compensation. If the flights were booked separately and the second leg was missed because of a delay on the first, you can request a reimbursement from the first airline. Reimbursement can include moral compensation, the price of the ticket for the missed flight, and the price of a new ticket that you had to buy because of the delay. But if you missed the second flight because you yourself did not leave enough time to check-in for the second flight – it’s on you.
Minimum connection time (MCT) depends on the airport, its size, and type of the trip (domestic, international, etc.). Small airports have shorter MCTs. For example, Vienna International (VIE) has connecting times starting as low as 25 minutes. The main hubs may require 1,5h or even more! If you’re booking separate flights to reach your destination, make sure you’ll have enough time on your hands to switch planes – they will not wait for you. To get a better idea of how much time you’ll need, you can take an example from the airlines: observe how much time they leave between their connected flights.
Accepting flight vouchers
In case of a flight disruption, airlines might offer you some complimentary flight vouchers “for your troubles” and ask for your signature for receiving that. Before you do that, make sure you’re not waiving your rights away. The EU Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004 indicates that the compensation should be paid “in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank orders or bank cheques or, with the signed agreement of the passenger, in travel vouchers and/or other services.”
While travel vouchers are an acceptable way of paying, they have quite a few drawbacks. Usually, vouchers can only be used with the airline that issued them. There is usually a set deadline on the voucher. On the other hand, monetary compensation can be used whenever you want, wherever you want. If you decide to accept a voucher for compensation, make sure that the amount offered is not smaller than the compensation established by the EU Regulation. If you accept a voucher of lesser value than your compensation, you can still request a reimbursement, but the airline might deduct the value of the voucher from the compensation amount.
You should keep in mind that food, beverage or accommodation vouchers in case of a delay do not count as compensation. In case of a long delay or cancelation, the carrier must provide you with free meals and drinks, access to two free calls, let you use e-mail or send a free fax. When you have to wait for a flight for one or more nights, you must be granted free hotel accommodation, including transport to and from the airport.