Law guide: Complaints and disputes

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Schedule changes, downgrading and diverted flights

Schedule changes, downgrading and diverted flights


The law

The European Community Regulation EC 261/2004 sets the compensation passengers are entitled to when they're denied boarding or downgraded, or if their flight is cancelled or delayed. Its purpose is to provide high levels of protection for air passengers who can experience serious inconvenience when things go wrong.

The regulation applies to flights:

  • departing from a European airport on any airline; or
  • arriving at a European airport on a European airline.

For this purpose, 'European' includes countries in the EU and the European Free Trade area, which includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Rights when you've been downgraded

If you've been downgraded to a class lower than what you paid for, you're entitled to the following:

Length of journeyReimbursement

Up to 1,500 km

30% of price of ticket

1,500-3,500 km

50% of price of ticket

More than 3,500 km

75% of price of ticket

Rights when flights are rescheduled

Airlines change their schedules from time to time. This can result in significant changes to the time or even date of a flight, which in turn could cause delays. Passengers should always be told of changes to schedule in advance.

For significant changes, most airlines will give a refund if the new flight times aren't acceptable to the passenger. This includes connecting flights on a single ticket or reservation. However, an airline making a schedule change has no responsibility for any connecting flights that you may have booked under separate reservations.

Before you accept a schedule change, be sure that it isn't actually a cancellation. If the flight number is different, and if you're being told of a change within 14 days of travel, you might be entitled to compensation.

For information on delayed and cancelled flights, see Delays: rights under EU Regulations and Cancellations: rights under EU Regulations.

For more information on being refused boarding, see Denied boarding: rights under EU Regulations.

Rights if your flight has been diverted

Sometimes airlines can't fly to the scheduled destination. If your flight is diverted, the airline must get you to the destination airport on your ticket or reservation at no extra cost to you. You may be entitled to compensation if there has been a delay. For more information see Delays.

The airline may arrange alternative forms of transport for you, such as a coach or train. If the airline arranges alternative transport and you choose to go by other means, you may struggle to get the airline to reimburse you.

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