European Union Passengers Due Compensation if Flight Leaves... Early! European Union Passengers Due Compensation if Flight Leaves... Early!

European Union Passengers Due Compensation if Flight Leaves... Early!

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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

You can now get EU compensation if your flight is rescheduled early

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.

Bottom Line

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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  • damn Europe compensate you for flight leaving earlier while in some countries flights get cancelled and you should be happy you got a free coffee

  • Ana Maria del Rosario Valencia says:

    More than interesting ruling. Lately, many airlines have ‘consolidated’ flights and rescheduled the later ones to depart earlier.
    I trust this ruling will help them to think it twice. Sometimes it’s quite hard to make it earlier to the airport …

  • This is interesting. I don’t think that outside a schedule change, I don’t see a flight moved up that much. I guess there must have been a lot for them to change the rule? I wonder in what time before the flight this could be changed. I would assume at the last minute. I am curious. I’ll have to read more about this.

  • David Stretch says:

    I can imagine this ruling getting very complicated for flights to/from the UK connecting through a European airport to/from a destination outside of Europe.

  • Charles Coleman says:

    Interesting ruling from the EU Court of Justice. But, in many cases, I would be willing to arrive earlier, if I knew that it would help the airline and get me to my destination earlier. However, I realize it might be inconvenient for other travelers whose connections might not work for them.
    I feel most of the airlines are doing the best they can, considering the COVID issues. Still, I respect what the EU Court of Justice has ruled.

  • Seth Breidbart says:

    Does this apply to all passengers? E.g. If you have a 3-hour connection, and the second flight leaves 65 minutes early, that just gives you less time waiting at the airport and an early arrival.

    I can certainly see such compensation as fair if the passenger arrives at the airport on time to catch the initially-scheduled flight, but fails to catch the one that leaves early. But if they catch it anyway, I don’t see why compensation is due (they had just as much time as expected prior to leaving for the airport, they just spent less time waiting at the airport).