Boarding denials can quickly ruin your trip. Thankfully, there are regulations which have established common rules under which passengers can claim denied boarding compensation. Learn more about your passenger rights.

 

Denied Boarding: What Are Your Air Passenger Rights

Boarding denials happen more often than we’d like. There isn’t much you can do when it does, but airlines must follow some rules which could improve your situation. In the following sections, you will learn more about your air passenger rights and what to do in case of denied boarding.

 

Denied Boarding on EU Flights

In 2004 the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union passed EU Regulation 261/2004 (or EC261 for short). The Regulation sets common grounds for compensation and care for passengers in the event of denied boarding. Air passengers can claim between 250 and 600 euros depending on the journey. There are a few nuances, however, which we discuss below.

 

So what flights are covered?

EU Regulation 261/2004 covers all of the EU airspace, along with Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the outermost regions - i.e. French Guiana and Martinique, Mayotte, Guadeloupe and La Reunion, Saint-Martin, Madeira and the Azores, and the Canary Islands.

The Regulation covers all flights departing out of the European Union, regardless whether it is an intra-EU or an international flight. Flights which are departing out of the European Union, but are EU-bound, are covered insofar as they are operated by an EU air carrier. To make it clearer:
 

   Travel itinerary    EU carrier       Non-EU carrier                
   From EU to EU    Covered    Covered
   From EU to non-EU     Covered    Covered
   From out of EU to EU    Covered    Not covered
   From out of EU to non-EU               Not covered                     Not covered

 

Let’s look at some real-life examples. Say you were travelling

  • from Milan to Paris: the flight is covered regardless of the air carrier as it is intra-EU.

  • from Rome to New York with American Airlines: the flight is covered even though it is operated by a non-EU carrier, because it departs out of the EU.

  • from Toronto to Amsterdam with KLM: the flight is covered even though it departs out of the EU, because it is operated by an EU air carrier.

  • from Toronto to Amsterdam with Air Canada: the flight is not covered because it departs out of the EU and is operated by a non-EU air carrier.

 

The easiest way for you to find out if your boarding denial is covered and if you are entitled to a flight compensation is to use our Compensation Calculator.

 

What is considered a denied boarding eligible for compensation?

For EU261 to apply, you musn’t surrender your seat voluntarily. In cases where you agree to give up on your seat in exchange for a travel voucher, airline miles or other sort of compensation, you are no longer eligible under the Regulation.

You won’t be entitled to compensation in the following cases as well:

  • You didn’t check-in on time*

  • You were not present at the gate on time*

  • You do not have the required travel documents (boarding pass, passport, and visa when applicable)

  • You created or represented a health, safety or security concern

*”On-time” refers to the time limit set by the airline. This information is available on their website and should be indicated in your booking confirmation and boarding pass as well.

 

In other words, you are covered only if you have been denied boarding against your will. This happens essentially in cases of overbooking, when the airline sold more tickets than there are seats on the plane. They do this to compensate for “no-shows”, ie passengers who booked a ticket but do not show up for the flight. If you’re denied boarding because of an overbooked flight, you are entitled to compensation.

 

The easiest way for you to find out if your boarding denial is covered and if you are entitled to a flight compensation is to use our Compensation Calculator.

 

How much can I claim for my boarding denial?

The amount of the denied boarding flight compensation ranges between 250 and 600 euro and depends on the distance between your original point of departure and your final destination. The table below summarizes the amount, which you can claim.
 

   Distance

    Compensation amount    

   Flights under 1,500km

   250€

   Intra-EU flights over 1,500km

   400€

   Non-EU flights between 1,500 and 3,500km        

   400€

   Non-EU flights over 3,500km

   600€

 

The good news for you is that the airline is supposed to pay you this compensation immediately, at the airport. In addition, you are entitled to a re-routing to your destination.

 

What if I had connecting flights?

If your journey includes one or more connecting flights, the amount of your compensation will depend on several factors:

  • All your flights must be under a unique booking

  • Your flights must be eligible under EU261 as described in “What is considered a boarding denial flight eligible for compensation?”

  • The eligible distance

 

The eligible distance includes the flight for which you were denied boarding as well as:

  • The flights that come after, no matter whether they were operated by the same airline or not

  • The previous flights if they were operated by the same airline responsible for the disruption

 

For example, you are travelling from Sofia to Toronto, with a connection in Rome and another one in Paris, under one booking and with the same booking number (PNR). Let’s imagine the following scenario:

You were denied boarding on your Rome-Paris flight, operated by Alitalia. As a result, you miss your connection Paris-Toronto operated by Air France. The eligible distance is the one between Rome and Toronto, even though Alitalia didn’t operate the last leg of your journey. You are entitled to 600€ from Alitalia.

 

Now let’s imagine a flight from Sofia to Paris with a connection in Rome, under one booking and with the same booking number (PNR). You were denied boarding on your Rome-Paris flight, operated by Alitalia. If Alitalia operated the leg between Sofia and Rome as well, you are entitled to 400€, because the distance Sofia-Paris is between 1500 and 3500km. If Alitalia didn’t operate the leg between Sofia and Rome, you are entitled to 250€, because only the flight Rome-Paris is eligible and the distance between the two cities is less than 1500km.

 

It is possible that some European Courts interpret the Regulation differently. The easiest way for you to find out if your denied boarding flight is covered and if you are entitled to a flight compensation is to use our Compensation Calculator.

 

Note that in all cases, had you booked separate tickets, with different booking numbers, you would not be entitled to compensation.

 

To sum up, when you have connecting flights booked under the same reservation, the amount of compensation is calculated based on the total distance between the original point of departure and the final destination, regardless of how many connections you’ve had in between. The carrier, which caused the disruption is responsible for paying the compensation.

 

What type of documents should I keep to claim compensation?

As explained above, the airline is supposed to pay your compensation immediately, at the airport. In most cases, however, they don’t. Do not worry, you can still claim compensation later on if you didn’t claim there.

Even if you have a perfectly valid claim, airlines will sometime look for ways to reject it. One example is asking for additional information, such as your boarding pass, electronic ticket, luggage tag, and other travel documents. While this may sound silly, given that the airline has all of your information, EC261 grants the carrier permission to request certain information prior to accepting a claim. To increase your chances of success, make sure to keep certain information upon arrival at your final destination.

  • Keep all documents related to your flight and/or any alternative flights. These include your boarding pass or stub, your electronic ticket, booking confirmation, luggage tag, etc.
    You may also want to keep some of your receipts for additional expenses, which resulted because of the boarding denial. In particular, ask for a denied boarding certificate at the airport. This will help a lot support your claim.

  • Try to find out what was the reason for the denied boarding. Was the flight overbooked? Did the airline sell your seat to a passenger on a disrupted flight who was rebooked on yours?

 

How long after the boarding denial can I claim?

Depending on the country where the air carrier is headquartered, there are certain time limits to file your claim (also known as Statute of Limitations).

For example, the Statute of Limitations in the United Kingdom is 6 years. This means that if your flight was operated by British Airways, you can file a claim for a flight, which took place 6 years ago. Here is a list with the time limits to file a claim per country:

 

   Country                     

   Limitation period        

   Country                    

   Limitation period          

   Austria

   3 years

   Latvia

   2 years

   Belgium

   1 year

   Lithuania

   3 years

   Bulgaria

   5 years

   Luxembourg

   10 years

   Croatia

   3 years

   Malta

   No limit

   Cyprus

   6 years

   Netherlands

   2 years

   Czech Republic

   3 years

   Norway

   3 years

   Denmark

   3 years

   Poland

   1 year

   Estonia

   3 years

   Portugal

   3 years

   Finland

   3 years

   Romania

   3 years

   France

   5 years

   Slovakia

   2 years

   Germany

   3 years

   Slovenia

   2 years

   Greece

   5 years

   Spain

   5 years

   Hungary

   5 years

   Sweden

   3 years

   Iceland 

   2 years

   Switzerland

   2 years

   Ireland

   6 years

   United Kingdom

   6 years

   Italy

   26 months

   

 

What else am I entitled to under EC261 if I am denied boarding?

Besides claiming for denied boarding compensation, there are other rights that you have under EC261.

 

Right to refund or re-routing

Not only can you get a compensation for the loss of time incurred by your boarding denial, you are also entitled to one of the following:

  • The full or partial refund of your ticket, plus a return flight back to your initial destination (when applicable).

  • The earliest alternative transport to your destination. If no other flight is available, the airline must pay for your alternate transport, be it a bus, train or something else, along with the cost for you to get to this other transport.

  • Another ticket to your destination at a later date.

Again, these rights do not influence the amount of compensation you are going to receive. However, do not accept travel vouchers or airline miles: these may waive your right to compensation.

 

Right to care

If you’re stuck at the airport because of a boarding denial, the airline must take care of you until they get you to your destination. You’re entitled to free meals and refreshments for the duration of the delay, as well as access to a telephone and email. If you happen to need accommodation for long delays (typically over 6h), the airline must also provide you with a hotel room or a place to stay and an airport transfer.

Many passengers confuse the latter as their compensation. Note that the two are completely independent. Even if the airline paid for your hotel and meals, you are still entitled to a boarding denial flight compensation.

 

Upgrades and downgrades

When the only available seats on an alternative flight are situated in a higher class than the one you purchased, the airline cannot charge you extra. However, if you were supposed to fly first class and end up on an alternative flight in coach, you can ask for a refund ranging between 35 and 75% of the original ticket price.

 

Can I seek even further compensation?

Yes. Claiming a denied boarding flight compensation under EC261 does not prevent you from pursuing even greater compensation. Although the dynamics and the procedures are very different, some passengers have tried pursuing the airline for damages, which were caused because of the disruption. A perfect example of this would be a loss because of a missed business meeting.

 

Of course, if you surrendered your seat voluntarily, you are not entitled to further compensation.

 

The easiest way for you to find out if your boarding denial is covered and if you are entitled to a flight compensation is to use our Compensation Calculator.

Learn more about EC 261 and your air passenger rights in the EU.

 

Denied Boarding on US Flights

In the US as well, it is not uncommon for airlines to overbook their flights to compensate for people who do not show up for their flight although they booked a ticket (“no-shows’). Similar to the EU, US regulations protect passengers who have been denied boarding or bumped off their flight. Learn more about your passenger rights in the US.

 

So what flights are covered by US regulations?

US Regulations cover 2 types of flight where passengers are denied boarding:

  • Domestic flights operated by a US air carrier

  • International flights departing from the United States

If your flight departed from somewhere outside of the US and arrived in the US, you are not eligible for compensation.
 

   Flight itinerary                     

   Air Carrier    

   Covered by US regulations?    

   Domestic US flight

   Irrelevant

   Yes

   From the US to abroad

   US

   Yes

   From the US to abroad

   Non-US

   Yes

   From abroad to the US

   US

   No

   From abroad to the US

   Non-US

   No

 

For example:

  • Flight New York-Los Angeles: covered by US regulations

  • Flight New York-London operated by Delta: covered by US regulations

  • Flight New York-London operated by British Airways: covered by US regulations

  • Flight London-New York operated by Delta: not covered by US regulations

  • Flight London-New York operated by British Airways: not covered by US regulations

 

Are all boarding denials covered by US regulations?

You are only eligible for compensation if you are denied boarding because the airline overbooked the flight AND you did not surrender your seat voluntarily in exchange for a refund, airline miles or another benefit.

 

How much can I claim for being denied boarding on a US flight?

If you meet the conditions described above and are indeed eligible for a compensation, the amount will depend on 3 criteria:

  • Whether your flight was an international flight or a US domestic flight

  • The arrival time at your destination if you accept to be re-routed. Should you decide to make your own arrangement, the compensation is the full refund, called “involuntary refund”, to compensate for your inconvenience

  • The price of your ticket

 

To summarize:
 

   Type of flight

   Delay at your destination compared to your scheduled flight

   0-1 hour       

   1-2 hours

   2-4 hours

   More than 4 hours

   Domestic flight

   No compensation   

   200% of your one-way fare to your final destination (max. $675)

   400% of your one-way fare to your final destination (max. $1350)

   400% of your one-way fare to your final destination (max. $1350)

   International    flight    

   No compensation   

   200% of your one-way fare to your final destination (max. $675)

   200% of your one-way fare to your final destination (max. $675)

   400% of your one-way fare to your final destination (max. $1350)

 

Should the airline not organize any substitute travel arrangements, you are entitled to 400% of your one-way fare to your final destination, not exceeding $1350.

 

Furthermore, if you purchased additional services for your original flight (seat upgrade, checked luggage, etc.) but do not receive these services on your alternate flight or are required to pay a second time, the airline must add these payments to the compensation.

 

In cases where your ticket doesn’t have a price (e.g. a frequent flyer award ticket), your denied boarding compensation is based on the lowest cash, check or credit card payment charged for a ticket in the same class of service (e.g., coach, first class) on that flight. For instance, let’s imagine that you got a free ticket in first class and you are denied boarding. If the cheapest ticket for a first class seat on this flight was sold at $400, you compensation will be calculated based on this amount.

 

Do keep in mind that airlines may offer free tickets or dollar-amount vouchers for future flights in place of a check for denied boarding compensation. However, if you are bumped involuntarily, you have the right to insist on a check if that is your preference. Once you cash the check (or accept the free flight), you lose the ability to pursue more money from the airline later on.

 

What type of documents should I keep to claim compensation under US regulations?

Keep all documents related to your flight and/or any alternative flights. These include your boarding pass or stub, your electronic ticket, booking confirmation, luggage tag, etc.
You also need to keep your receipts for additional expenses, which resulted because of the boarding denial.

In particular, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) requires each airline to give all passengers who are bumped involuntarily a written statement describing their rights and explaining how the carrier decides who gets on an oversold flight and who doesn't.

Keep this document, as it qualifies you for a denied boarding compensation even if the airline can't find your reservation in the computer.

 

How long after being denied boarding can I claim?

The time limit to claim compensation for your boarding denial depends on the airline’s policy. Refer to their contract of carriage on their website. We strongly recommend that you submit a claim soon after the events occurred.

If the airline offered you a check but you want to negotiate for a larger compensation, you have 30 days from the date on the check to accept it. Beyond this date, you may surrender your right to compensation.

 

Find out more about US passenger rights.

 

Denied Boarding on International Flights

Similar to EU Regulation 261/2004, the Montreal Convention of 1999 established common grounds for compensating passengers on international flights between participating countries. Today, over 120 nations have joined the regulation.

 

So what flights are covered?

The Montreal Convention is applicable in cases of international carriages. This includes flights between State Parties as well as flights within a single State Party that include a planned stopover in another country, no matter if this country has ratified the Montreal Convention or not.

 

   Country of Departure

   Planned Stopover

   Application of Montreal Convention?       

   From State Party to State Party        

   Irrelevant

   Yes

   Within a single State Party

   No

   No

   Within a single State Party

   Yes, in another State Party       

   Yes

   Within a single State Party

   Yes, not in a State Party

   Yes

 

For example:

  • Flight Russia-Thailand (both State Parties): covered by Montreal Convention

  • Domestic flight in China without stopover: not covered by Montreal Convention

  • Flight China-China with a stopover in Thailand (State Party): covered by Montreal Convention

  • Flight China-China with a stopover in Vietnam (not a State Party): covered by Montreal Convention

 

Are all boarding denials covered by the Montreal Convention?

Similar again to EU261 and US Regulations, the Montreal Convention only applies if you were involuntarily denied boarding because of an overbooked flight.

 

You will not be entitled to compensation in the following cases:

  • You didn’t check-in on time*

  • You were not present at the gate on time*

  • You do not have the required travel documents (boarding pass, passport, and visa when applicable)

  • You created or represented a health, safety or security concern

  • You were volunteer to surrender your seat in exchange for some benefits

*”On-time” refers to the time limit set by the airline. This information is available on their website and should be indicated in your booking confirmation and boarding pass as well.

 

How much can I claim for being denied boarding on an international flight?

At the difference of the EU and US regulations, arriving late or not arriving at your destination because you were denied boarding doesn’t make you eligible for a compensation. The Montreal Convention only covers “damages” resulting from the boarding denial.

“Damages” are subject to different interpretations. Most countries only consider financial losses and physical injuries as damages, but not the psychological distress of being denied boarding.

In cases where you have incurred damages in the meaning of the Convention, you can claim compensation. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has set a currency called Special Drawing Rights (SDR) to calculate the amount of the compensation. As of December 2017, the exchange rate was:

1 EUR = 0,84 SDR

1 USD = 0,70 SDR

You can follow the exchange rate here.

The Montreal Convention lets you claim compensation up to 4,694 SDR if you’ve been bumped off the plane.

 

What type of documents should I keep to claim compensation under the Montreal Convention?

Keep all documents related to your flight and/or any alternative flights. These include your boarding pass or stub, your electronic ticket, booking confirmation, luggage tag, etc.
You also need to keep your receipts for additional expenses, which resulted because of the boarding denial, as proof of the financial damages.

Try to get a document attesting why you were denied boarding.

 

How long after being denied boarding can I claim?

The Montreal Convention allows you to claim compensation for damages up to 2 years after the events. However, we strongly recommend that you submit your claim soon after the denied boarding occurred.

 

Find out more about International Passenger Rights

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