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A European Union (EU) court recently ruled that passengers are entitled to compensation if an airline reschedules a flight to depart more than an hour early. In these circumstances, the same rules as a “canceled flight” will apply under EU261 passenger rights. Here's what this court case means for you, the traveler.
What is EU261?
EU261 is a set of passenger rights. It covers your rights when an airline cancels your flight, delays the flight, makes you miss a connection, etc. There are specific details on what the airline must provide to you in terms of help and monetary compensation. You can read our detailed guide to claiming compensation through EU261 here.
New Ruling for European Union Compensation on Early Flight Departure
The European Union's top court handed down the new ruling the week before Christmas. Previously, this ruling had applied only to canceled and delayed flights. In this ruling, the EU rulings on passenger rights will entitle customers to compensation on early flights, as well. Why? According to the ruling:
A flight must be regarded as having been ‘cancelled’ in the case where the operating air carrier brings that flight forward by more than one hour.
In such a case, the flight must be regarded as having been brought forward by a significant amount of time since it may result in serious inconvenience for passengers, in the same way as a delay. Where a flight has been brought forward in this way, passengers are unable to use their time as they wish and to organise their trip or holiday in line with their expectations. Accordingly, passengers may, inter alia, be forced to adapt significantly to the new departure time in order to be able to take their flight, or may even be unable, despite having taken the necessary precautions, to board the aircraft.
Thus, the EU Court of Justice says it considers flights as canceled if they're moved forward by an hour or more. Passengers with a confirmed ticket on these flights will have the same rights as they would for eligible canceled flights detailed in the EU261 provisions.
Remember that EU compensation is based on the distance of the flight:
- 1,500 kilometers or less: €250 per passenger
- 1,501-3,500 kilometers (or more than 1,500 kilometers but entirely within the EU): €400 per passenger
- 3,501+ kilometers: €600 per passenger
How This Ruling is Different
Normally, airlines can cut their payment responsibilities to passengers. If an airline cancels a flight or has a delay but can reroute you to arrive at your destination on time (ex: putting you on a partner airline's flight), the airline would only have to pay you 50% of the amount listed above.
However, this new ruling eliminates that option. The airline will owe you 100% of the “canceled flight” compensation if it moves a flight forward by an hour or more.
This is a very generous ruling from the EU Court of Justice regarding compensation on early flight departures. The court ruled that this is as much an inconvenience as a delayed flight since passengers cannot use their time as they wish and may need to make significant alterations to their plans – possibly ruining a vacation.
If you have a ticketed and confirmed flight subject to EU261 regulations then see the schedule adjust forward an hour or more, file a claim. For details on how to get started, guide to claiming compensation through EU261 here.
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