When things go wrong, you have the right to care

If your flight is delayed or cancelled.

If you have been denied boarding due to overbooking.

If you have to wait at the airport, in Europe you have the right to care. Mostly that means a free meal and a drink, or if it’s a long delay - free hotel accommodation. Because that’s the rules in European Union. And these rules apply to most flights operated from countries of European Union, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

When the flight is from somewhere else, it must be operated by a European airline for these rules to apply to it.

And it doesn’t matter if it’s your airline’s fault or not.

If you have to wait at the airport, the airline should take care of you.

Airplane parked at the airport

Right to care according to EC 261/2004

In Europe all air passengers are well protected.

That includes both Europeans and tourists from overseas.

Here is what the airline must offer you, if you have to wait at the airport.

According to the Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, Article 9:

  • free meals and drinks in a reasonable relation to the waiting time,
  • free hotel accommodation if a stay of one or more nights is necessary,
  • two free phone calls, e-mails or faxes.

If you have to wait 2-3 hours extra, you have the right to it.

There are exceptions, but mostly you’ll be getting your first free meal if you have to wait 2 - 3 hours. Mostly it’s gonna be in form of coupons, that you can exchange at the airport cafes, shops or restaurants. Contact your airline if nothing is being handed out.

You can also buy a meal yourself.

Save the receipes in this case, and request a refund from the airline later.

A sandwich on the table at airport cafe

What about extraordinary circumstances?

As already mentioned, it doesn’t matter.

The reason of the delay or cancellation doesn’t matter in this situation.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the airline’s fault or not.

If you have to wait long at the airport, the airline should take care of you.

EU and non-EU airlines

There are differences between the two, when it comes to EU rules.

If it’s a European airline, it applies to all flights to and from Europe.

If it's a non-European airline - flights from or within Europe.

In this case, Europe means all EU Member States, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Reunion, Mayotte, Saint Martin (French Antilles), the Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland.

Learn more about your rights when travelling with non-EU airlines.

And if there are no extraordinary circumstances, if it’s just a regular flight cancellation or delay, don’t forget to claim flight compensation.

Bon voyage!