Air passenger rights are rules, laws and regulations made with the intent of supporting a traveler and advocating for compensation when airlines cause disruptions with the flight.
These rights are typically both domestic and international and apply to almost any air-traveller around the globe. Generally the differences between the legislations boil down to how widely you are covered. For example, the European EC261 is generally considered the most generous for the traveller.
While there are domestic laws, there are some strong and well-defined international rights such as the EU Passenger Rights Legislation EC261, various US laws, the Montreal Convention, numerous regional laws and regulations elsewhere.
There is great variety among the laws and regulations. Some are better defined and more extensive and thus offer a wider cover of rights for the passenger.
Knowing the status of these rights in your region can mean a difference of hundreds of euros for you.
One of the most well-defined passenger rights regulations is the EC 261/2004 in EU law.
The law makes out clear guidelines which define the amount of compensation based on a few variables. This regulation is one of the most important legislations concerning travelers rights world-wide.
If you are inconvenienced by a delayed or a cancelled flight, and that inconvenience was caused by the airline, the EU law holds the airlines accountable. Understanding the passenger rights regulation can make a difference between receiving no compensation at all to receiving anything between €250 to €600 euros of compensation.
The legislation EC 261 orders the airlines to compensate the passengers in case of:
-Flight delay of +3 hours
The availability of compensation depends on few factors:
First, the incident must be something that was possible to avoid by the airline and as such doesn’t fall into the category of “extraordinary circumstances.”
Second, the flight must’ve been on a European Union certified carrier or from an EU airport to outside EU. If the compensation is available, then the amount of compensation will be according to the length of delay, the length of the flight in kilometers, the origin and destination of the flight.
The US laws on passenger rights are unfortunately not as extensive as European or international laws. However, the US laws are beneficial for an individual that has been denied boarding, passengers experiencing lengthy tarmac delays or travelers experiencing problems with their luggage.
The US tarmac delay regulations apply to any plane flying within the US, departing from the US or departing to the US. The US laws regarding luggage issues deal with domestic US flights, while the international flights fall under the Montreal Convention.
The Montreal Convention is a multilateral treaty adopted by members of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization). The Montreal Convention covers passengers on international flights. These passengers then have a certain set of rights, which makes them viable for compensation under the covered situations.
The 2003 Montreal Convention sets out rights for several different flight disruptions: Delays, flight cancellations or boarding denials.
If you miss a reservation you paid for before, if you pay for additional nights at hotels, if buy vital foods or beverages due to an air travel problem, you have the right to be reimbursed. In these cases, it is important to provide as specific documentation of the purchases as possible, so holding onto all the receipts is advised.
All in all, the Montreal Convention is one of the most globally implemented passenger rights regulations. Knowing the passenger rights under the treaty is important for any world traveler. It is our opinion that the whole treaty is worth a reading, for people interested in international legislation.
The Montreal Convention uses the word ‘’damages’’ to talk about passenger entitlements. However, the interpretation varies according to the regional location of the air travel problem. In many countries, like the US for example, the ‘’damages’’ are limited to monetary losses and do not include additional compensation for psychiatric distress (unless clearly caused by a physical injury).
In other parts of the world, like the EU, a more relaxed, more passenger-friendly interpretation is followed. It is also possible under certain conditions to successfully claim for psychiatric distress.
The Montreal Convention also provides protection for the passengers in the event of luggage issues, whether the bags are delayed, damaged or lost altogether. Please be aware, that there are strict time limits for these laws. In order to claim successfully, you must deposit your claim with a time window. Claims of damaged baggage must be submitted within 7 days, delayed baggage within 21 days, for lost baggage (bags that are lost more than 21 days) your time for claim is two years.
The Montreal Convention applies to all international flights that occur between the +120 countries that have signed the treaty. This list includes the US and the EU. Most of the busiest airports in the world globally belong to countries that have signed the Montreal Convention treaty, with few notable exceptions (e. g. Sri Lanka, Vietnam). As the treaty is open for new countries to join, the list will be subjected to change towards the future.
Concerning internal flights within a certain country, it is important to note that the treaty only covers international flights. Hence, a flight within one country that doesn’t make stops outside the country is not covered in the Montreal Convention treaty. However, a flight that makes at least one stop outside the country, while still having the origin and the destination within the country, is covered in the Montreal Convention treaty. Bottom line is, for the flights to fall within the Montreal Convention, the flight must have at least one international stop on its route.
Not all disruptions of flights fall under the Montreal Convention. In general, any reason for disruption deemed force majeure (legal term for ‘’superior force’’, something that is beyond taking reasonable precautions on the airline’s part and cannot be stopped from happening with powers within the airline’s control), like wars, revolutions, political crises, strikes initiated by airport employees or air traffic control, or extreme weather conditions, are not covered in the Montreal Convention.
Going through legal documents, regulations, treaties or even bureaucratic corporation processes can be extremely stressful, tiring, frustrating and time-consuming. Often the documents and processes are made with the precise intent of making them unreadable or unpleasant. This is done by the corporations and other large entities to mitigate the possibility of consumers holding them accountable.
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