If we were to refer to an European equivalent of the American Rule 240, we would certainly refer to the Regulation passed by the European Commission, No 61/2004 establishing common rules on COMPENSATION and ASSISTANCE to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights.
The most evident difference between the two is that the European one is not a chimera, it is neither some sort of magic bullet to be shot whenever you’re stranded on an airport.
Who can make use of it?
Practically anyone travelling by plane is subject to this rule. This regulation is applicable to any traveller leaving from an airport situated in a EU Member State. Passengers are therefore protected whenever an EU airline operates the flight or is licensed to operate in the EU area.
You’ll be able to appeal to its STIPULATION provided you have a confirmed reservation on the flight, you came to the airport in due time or at least 45 minutes before the planned departure time or even if you were transferred to a different plane.
You won’t be able to resort to its PROVISION if you travel on a free or discounted ticket except for the cases when the ticket was obtained as part of frequent flyer’s program. Nevertheless, we would like to point out that both helicopter flights as well as flight not operated by a fixed-wing aircraft are not included in this regulation.
Denied boarding, cancelled or delayed flights
In case a passenger was involuntarily denied boarding he or she will be entitled to COMPENSATION. You should know that before resorting to this solution, carriers are compelled to find volunteers, that is passengers who give up their seats willingly.
Thus, according to the regulation, the “number of passengers denied boarding against their will should be reduced by requiring air carriers to call for volunteers to surrender their reservations, in exchange for benefits, instead of denying passengers boarding, and by fully compensating those finally denied boarding”.
In case of a flight that is cancelled, passengers “should be able either to obtain reimbursement of their tickets or to obtain re-routing under satisfactory conditions, and should be adequately cared for while awaiting a later flight”. You are therefore ENTITLED to be re-routed to the same destination or to be given your money back as well as a return flight to the initial point of departure, if case may be. Furthermore, you are also entitled to amenities.
However, you won’t be eligible for FINANCIAL COMPENSATION if you were notified two weeks in advance or if you were notified at least one week in advance and were re-routed so that you might leave no sooner than two hours earlier than planned and arrive no later than four hours than planned.
In case the airline notified passengers less than one week before the scheduled flight, they have to re-route them so that they may leave no more than one hour before the scheduled time of departure and to reach their final destination less than two hours after the scheduled time of arrival”. Moreover, you are also entitled to an EXPLANATION.
If it happens for a flight to arrive later than scheduled, then you are entitled amenities depending on the DURATION of the delay, two, three or four hours. In case the plane is to take off one day later, you are entitled to receive accommodation as well. In case the flight is delayed for five or more hours, you may receive “the full cost of the ticket at the price at which it was bought, for the part or parts of the journey not made, and for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel plan, together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure, at the earliest opportunity”.
You have the right to be informed
Carriers are compelled to inform their passengers by displaying a CLEARLY VISIBLE NOTE which states that “‘If you are denied boarding or if your flight is cancelled or delayed for at least two hours, ask at the check-in counter or boarding gate for the text stating your rights, particularly with regard to compensation and assistance’. Besides, airlines are also obliged to “provide each passenger affected with a written notice setting out the rules for compensation and assistance in line with this Regulation.”