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Who Has a Right to Care and Assistance From an Airline?

When travelling in Europe or on European airlines, passengers have the “right to care” during flight disruptions. This means they are entitled to free meals, hotel stays, and phone calls. According to Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, this rule applies to all passengers, no matter their nationality, insurance, airline, or age. It’s important to note that this right remains valid even in cases of delays or cancellations caused by extraordinary circumstances.

Continue reading to learn more about your rights as a passenger.

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What Is the “Right to Care” in Air Travel?

The right to care in air travel refers to the responsibility of airlines to provide proper care and assistance to their passengers in case of unexpected events or disruptions during their journey. This includes situations such as flight delays, cancellations, and denied boarding.

Under this right, airlines are required to provide basic necessities such as food, refreshments, and accommodation for passengers who experience long delays or have their flights cancelled or overbooked. They are also responsible for informing passengers about any changes or disruptions to their flight schedule in a timely manner.

  • If you have to wait 3 or more hours due to flight delay, cancellation or overbooking, you have the right to care from the airline. In this case, the airline has to offer free food and two free phone calls or emails. Mostly it’s provided in the form of coupons, that you can exchange at the airport cafes, shops or restaurants.
  • If you have to wait the night, you have the right also to a free hotel stay and free airport transfer.

You have this right also when your flight is delayed or cancelled due to so-called extraordinary circumstances. These can include extremely bad weather, political unrest, some airport strikes, or security threats. In these situations, you can’t get European flight compensation but you have the right to care from the airline.

In cases of flight cancellation or overbooking, airlines must provide alternative travel arrangements (i.e., a new flight) for affected passengers or issue a full refund.

European laws regulate the right to care in air travel – Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 and the UK 261 (Air Passenger Rights and Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing Regulation). These laws aim to protect the rights and well-being of passengers and ensure that they receive fair treatment from airlines, including flight compensation.

Learn more: What Is the “Right to Care” in Air Travel?

People waiting for their flight at an airport in Okinawa, Japan

Who Has a Right to Care and Assistance From an Airline?

Passengers are entitled to care and assistance from an airline when facing flight delays, cancellations, or overbooking (denied boarding). This right extends to travellers on European airlines and certain non-European airline flights.

European airlines provide “right to care” services for all flights, regardless of origin, while non-European airlines offer it only for flights leaving Europe. This is due to non-European airlines not being fully subject to European law, which covers only their flights from European airports.

Passengers who miss their connecting flight because of a delay or cancellation on their first flight may receive care and assistance from the airline. The airline is accountable for passengers on connecting flights when delays disrupt travel plans. Exception: self-transfer flights where making the connection is your responsibility.

If a passenger is denied boarding due to overbooking, they may also be entitled to care and assistance.

Do I have the right to receive care if I am not from Europe?

Yes. You’re entitled to care regardless of your nationality, ticket, insurance, or age.

Travellers who are entitled to care:

  1. Non-Europeans: Even if you aren’t a European citizen, you are entitled to care in case of flight delays, cancellations and overbookings.
  2. Infants and children: Even the youngest passengers have a right to care and compensation.
  3. People without travel insurance: You don’t need to have an insurance to get care and assistance from the airline.
  4. Passengers on low-cost airlines: Low-cost airlines also have to follow EU Regulations. So passengers on low-cost airlines have a right to care. If it’s a European low-cost airline, the right to care applies to all its flights. If it’s a non-European budget airline, the right to care applies only to flights from European airports.
  5. Travellers with discounted or cheap flight tickets: The price of your ticket doesn’t matter. If your flight is delayed, cancelled or overbooked, and you are stuck at the airport, you have a right to care.
  6. Passengers whose flight was disrupted due to extraordinary circumstances: You have a right even if your flight is delayed or cancelled due to extraordinary circumstances such as bad weather, political unrest, etc.

What is your experience with the right to care? Have you ever been in such a situation? Did the airline provide you with free food or a free hotel stay?

Featured photo by Pixabay from Pexels

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