What are your passenger rights when you fly or when your flight is delayed? Every day, millions of people choose to fly. Many of them, however, have to suffer the pain of flight delays, cancellations, fines or lost luggage. Highly inconvenient, but if you know what your rights and obligations are, you can save yourself a lot of trouble.
Rules change all the time, so always check the current regulations of the airline you’re flying with. If they have been changed, please let us know in the comments.
1. Flight delayed? You are entitled to compensation in the event of delay, cancellation or overbooking of your flight
Yes, it's finally time! You're going on vacation! A well-deserved holiday full of doing absolutely nothing. First you have to get there, though. You've done everything you can to get to the airport on time. You’ve packed your suitcase two days in advance. And just to be on the safe side, you took the train to the airport an hour earlier… only to find out that your flight has been delayed by 3 hours.
After 4 coffees and listening to the same playlist twice, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay in your pre-holiday zen mode. Fortunately, the EU has come up with something to alleviate the pain. If your flight is delayed, cancelled or overbooked, you are entitled to compensation.
Food, drinks, accommodation or your money back
Your compensation depends on the distance you have to fly and how long your delay is. Depending on your flight, you are entitled to one of the following compensations.
In case of cancellation
If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a refund of your flight ticket. Sometimes you get an extra flight for free. In case you have to travel a short distance, the airline may offer you alternative transport. Besides that, you are entitled to food, drinks and, if necessary, a hotel room - including transport to your accommodation.
All fees must be received within 7 days. This may be in cash, by bank transfer, cheque or voucher. We don’t recommend the last option (find out why at the bottom of this article). If you haven't received anything after 7 days, you should file a complaint with the airline.
In case of delay
The same fees apply if your flight is delayed. There are, however, a couple of specific rules in this case. You are entitled to food, drinks, communication facilities and, if necessary, accommodation in the following cases:
- You need to fly less than 1,500 kilometres and your flight is delayed by 2 hours or more
- You need to fly between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres and your flight is delayed by 3 hours or more
- You need to fly more than 3,500 kilometres and your flight is delayed by 4 hours or more
Are you more than five hours late? Then you are entitled to a refund of your ticket, and sometimes a free return flight home
In case of overbooking
Sometimes it happens that a flight gets overbooked. In this case, there are two options. You voluntarily give away your seat and in return, you receive financial compensation. Or, the airline refuses to take you on board. In this case, you get the same compensation as with a cancellation.
2. Watch your spelling!
A typing error is easily made and fixed - provided that you discover it in time. But what's less easy to fix is a fine from the airline. Seriously, you can risk a 3-hour delay at Los Angeles airport, being held up in a room full of criminals because you accidentally put a wrong letter on your ESTA visa form. FYI: the letter O does not appear in Dutch passports. It's always the number 0.
Double-check whether you have correctly entered your name and passport number. This applies to both your flight booking and your visa application, especially for the US. A simple typing error can turn your flight ticket into a worthless piece of paper. Or you get such a big fine that you might as well buy a new ticket.
Some airlines have softened their approach to typing errors. Ryanair, for example, no longer fines people for typing errors. And at KLM, you have 24 hours to correct a mistake free of charge. After that, you have to pay €50. If you find out at the check-in desk though, it’s often too late and you might have to buy a new ticket.
3. No-show on your outward journey? Then you can kiss your flight back home goodbye
Suppose you've booked a flight for a weekend in London. But last-minute you find out that a good friend of yours will be in London a day before you arrive. You'd love to see each other, but you can't change your ticket anymore. So, you book another cheap one-way ticket so you can leave a day early.
After a great weekend, you find yourself at Heathrow Airport on a Sunday evening, ready to fly back to Amsterdam with your original return ticket. But unfortunately, your ticket is no longer valid. The only option you have, is to book an extra flight. And the last ticket left is a first-class ticket of €400.
Quite an expensive no-show, that one. But it could have been a lot worse. Some airlines give you a fine equal to the original price of your flight ticket if you don't show up. So, better pay attention to the regulations of the airline you fly with!
EasyJet and Ryanair aren’t that strict if you don't show up for a return flight (at least, not at the time of writing), but KLM is. KLM can impose a fine between €125 and €3,000 and cancel your return flight in the event of a no-show.
4. Free baggage is not always allowed
Every airline has different baggage rules. Are you flying Economy Class on European KLM City Trips? In that case, you can only take carry-on luggage with you. On intercontinental KLM flights, you are allowed to check in your suitcase. And if you're flying Business Class, you can even bring 2 suitcases of 32 kilos each.
The maximum weight and dimensions of your suitcase and carry-on luggage vary per airline. Make sure you know what you can take with you so you don't have to deal with unpleasant surprises at the airport. Some airlines allow surfboards or other abnormal luggage on board for free, but others make you pay so much that you might as well buy a new board at your holiday destination.
Do you have any medical baggage? Please report this when you book a flight. Or contact the airline and ask if your items are allowed.
5. Missing or damaged luggage
Finally, you've arrived at your destination. You get off the plane and you make your way through the rather long cue for customs and the conveyor belt. There you are, 45 minutes of waiting without any sign of your suitcase. You finally find out that the airline ‘misplaced’ it.
You feel annoyed, to say the least. You now have to do with the smelly outfit you're wearing, which includes your underwear. Before you stress out, remember that you’re entitled to compensation! This can run up to €1,300, which is definitely enough to buy yourself a couple of nice new outfits. Is your luggage damaged? The airline has to compensate you for that, too.
You can get this by filling out a PIR form, otherwise known as a Property Irregularity Report. Just ask the Lost & Found or the luggage service desk for a form. You need this form to submit your claim to the airline.
6. Liquids in your carry-on luggage
Have you ever seen how many items get confiscated at the security checkpoint? Every day, the security officers collect containers full of make-up, water bottles, hair gels, perfumes and shaving foam. You’re allowed to have 10 x 100 ml bottles of liquids in your carry-on luggage. This seems like a lot, but if you happen to have a 300 ml spray in your handbag, it does get confiscated.
An easy solution is to get some mini shampoos, sprays, etc., at the drugstore. Another option is to buy some of those little travel bottles and fill them with your favourite shampoo or body lotion. All your liquids must be placed in a transparent ziplock bag and presented separately at the security checkpoint. You can get these at your regular department store or at the airport.
After passport control, you are free to do some tax-free shopping. You are allowed to bring any liquids purchased at the airport or on the plane with you. Even if that is more than 100 ml per item. As long as they are packed and sealed in the shop. This seal is valid for 1 day and you’re not allowed to break it until you have arrived at your final destination.
7. What you can(’t) bring home with you
There are not only rules for what you can take with you, but there are also rules for what you cannot take back with you.
In the words of the Dutch Tax Authority: “it's probably no surprise”, but you're not allowed to bring drugs and (fake) weapons with you. You can’t bring any protected animal and plant species (this also applies to coral), or products made of it. Those lizard skin boots aren’t allowed either.
Meat, fish and dairy products are allowed, but only if they come from a country within the EU. You can bring 20 kilos of fish with you. Fruit and vegetables have a maximum of 5 kilos. And if you want to import plants, the regulations vary according to the plant type.
Are you an art collector? Check with your country’s embassy whether you are allowed to put that ancient stone in your suitcase. Sometimes you need a permit for that.
Went on a shopping spree? And are you bringing more than €430 worth of new clothes? Then you have to pay import duties. You also have to pay an import tax if you carry too many cigarettes or alcoholic beverages. These are the limits:
- If you bought them within the EU, you can bring a maximum of 4 cigarette cases and 110 litres of beer, 90 litres of wine, 20 litres of light liqueur and 10 litres of spirits.
- If you bought them outside of the EU, you can bring a maximum of 1 cigarette case, 4 litres of beer, 16 litres of wine, 2 litres of light liqueur and 1 litre of spirits.
Here are some extra tips.
- In case of a delay, don’t accept vouchers, but accept the financial compensation the airline offers. As mentioned before, we don’t recommend accepting vouchers. Vouchers are only valid for a limited time and deprive you of your right to compensation.
- Check what your travel insurance reimburses. If you have trip cancellation insurance and your flight is significantly delayed, you will probably receive compensation from your insurance. Always ask for a written statement from the airline so that you can submit it to your travel insurance.
- Always keep your receipts! This applies to everything you've bought in terms of food and drinks, but it also includes your boarding pass, transport and accommodation.
- Don't forget to book your flight with FlyGRN. For every flight you book, we plant a tree or invest in a solar panel project in India.
Do you want to travel a little greener? Check out these environmentally friendly holiday destinations in Europe.
This blog has been updated for the last time in January 2019. It may be that some regulations have changed. Always check relevant websites of airlines and authorities for current regulations.
Do you have any experience with delays, reimbursements or general air travel? Share it with our traveller community and leave a comment below!
Written by Jessica Scheper