Air passenger rights

Today traveling by plane already have become a routine matter. However, many have faced the need to take some adjustments to its rest of travel plans, because the intended flight was delayed, cancelled or passengers were denied boarding.
 
Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91 (Regulation) sets minimum rights for passengers when:
• passengers against their will are denied boarding on a flight;
• a flight is cancelled;
• a flight is delayed.

These rights apply to all passengers departing from an EU airport and from an airport in a third country to an airport in EU, when the flight is operated by EU air carrier.
Regulation shall not apply to passengers travelling free of charge or at a reduced fare not available directly or indirectly to the public. However, it shall apply to passengers having tickets issued under a frequent flyer program or other commercial program by an air carrier or tour operator.
Air carrier is obliged to render written information to passengers in case of denied boarding, flight cancellation or delay regarding their rights and regarding contact information for competent national enforcement body according to Regulation.


Denied boarding
If the flight is overbooked or passenger cannot board the plane for another reason, for instance, due to errors by ground staff, and the passenger had the reservation and presented himself on time for boarding, then it is considered as denied boarding.
In accordance with Regulation air carrier must first call for volunteers, who are willing to refuse  their reservations in exchange for benefits agreed by passenger and air carrier. In addition, volunteers are entitled to another flight as soon as possible or at a later date, or a refund of the cost of the ticket. In such a case air carrier is obliged to provide assistance according to Article 8 of Regulation. 
If there are not enough volunteers, air carrier may deny boarding to passengers against their will. In such situation passengers are entitled to reimbursement of the cost of the ticket or re-routing, as well as to monetary compensation and assistance.
The amount of compensation:
• EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 km or less;
• EUR 400 for all intra-EU flights of more than 1500 km and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500km;
• EUR 600 for all other flights exceeding 3500 km outside the EU.

When passengers are offered re-routing to their final destination on an alternative flight pursuant to Article 8 of Regulation, the arrival time of which does not exceed the scheduled arrival time of the flight originally booked by 2, 3 or 4 hours in respect of flight’s distance the operating air carrier may reduce the compensation provided 50 %.
The compensation shall be paid in cash, by electronic bank transfer, bank orders or bank cheques or, with the signed agreement of the passenger, in travel vouchers and/or other services. 


Delayed flight
 If the flight is delayed taking into account flight’s distance and the time of delay for 2, 3 or 4 hours air carrier shall provide passengers with:
• free of charge meals and refreshments;
• free of charge to make 2 telephone calls, send 2 fax messages or e-mails;
• if the time of departure is at least on the next day after previously scheduled time of departure – hotel and transport to the hotel.

If the flight is delayed at least for 5 hours air carrier has the obligation to offer the reimbursement of the cost of the ticket and if necessary, return flight to initial departure point.
If passenger reaches his destination three hours or more after the arrival time originally scheduled, passenger is entitled to financial compensation, unless the air carrier can prove that the long delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken, namely circumstances beyond the actual control of the air carrier.
The Judgment of European Courts of Justice in joined cases C-402/07 and C-432/07 from 19th  of November, 2009 established that “Articles 5, 6 and 7 of Regulation must be interpreted as meaning that passengers whose flights are delayed may be treated, for the purposes of the application of the right to compensation, as passengers whose flights are cancelled and they may thus rely on the right to compensation laid down in Article 7 of the Regulation where they suffer, on account of a flight delay, a loss of time equal to or in excess of three hours, that is, where they reach their final destination three hours or more after the arrival time originally scheduled by the air carrier. 
Amount of compensation:
• EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 km or less;
• EUR 400 for all intra-EU flights of more than 1500 km and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500km;
• EUR 600 for all other flights exceeding 3500 km outside the EU.

 
Cancellation
Cancellation means the non-operation of a flight which was previously planned and on which at least one place was reserved.
In case of cancellation of a flight air carrier shall offer:
• reimbursement of the cost of the ticket within 7-day term (if necessary, return flight to initial departure point) or re-routing;
• free of charge meals and refreshments;
• free of charge to make 2 telephone calls, send 2 fax messages or e-mails;
• if the time of departure is at least on the next day after previously scheduled time of departure – hotel and transport to the hotel; monetary compensation
unless:
o they are informed of the cancellation at least two weeks before the scheduled time of departure; or
o they are informed of the cancellation between two weeks and seven days before the scheduled time of departure and are offered re-routing, allowing them to depart no more than two hours before the scheduled time of departure and to reach their final destination less than four hours after the scheduled time of arrival; or
o they are informed of the cancellation less than seven days before the scheduled time of departure and are offered re-routing, allowing them to depart no more than one hour before the scheduled time of departure and to reach their final destination less than two hours after the scheduled time of arrival.
Amount of  compensation:
• EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 km or less;
• EUR 400 for all intra-EU flights of more than 1500 km and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500km;
• EUR 600 for all other flights exceeding 3500 km outside the EU.

The burden of proof concerning the questions as to whether and when the passenger has been informed of the cancellation of the flight shall rest with the operating air carrier.
Passengers shall not be entitled to the compensation if the air carrier can prove that the cancellation was caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken, namely circumstances beyond the actual control of the air carrier. 
 
Where to turn in case of problem?
If passenger considers that his/her entitlements under air passenger rights legislation have been breached and he/she is entitled to compensation, passenger should first contact the air carrier, that is, to submit a written complaint to the air carrier. The complaint to the air carrier can be sent either in a free narrative form or by filling out complaint form. 
If passenger is not satisfied with air carriers’ response or does not receive a response at all, he/she can lodge complaint to national enforcement body, enclosing all necessary documents related to the case (complaint to airline, airline’s answer, boarding pass, tickets etc.). 
The competent national enforcement body according to Regulation is the body of Member State where is situated the airport from which the flight is cancelled, delayed or where the boarding is denied or concerning any flight from a third country to an airport situated on that territory.  

Exceptions regarding Consumer Rights Protection Center competence 
If passenger’s complaint relates to a flight with AS “Air Baltic Corporation” (Air Baltic) flying in/out of the United Kingdom passenger may lodge complaint to the Consumer Rights Protection Centre (CRPC). 
CRPC considers passengers’ complaint in either Latvian or English. If passenger wishes to raise a complaint about Air Baltic with CRPC passenger can send complaint via an e-mail to this address: ptac@ptac.gov.lv, or by mail to address Brivibas street 55, Riga, Latvia, LV-1010.
CRPC will accept complaints about Air Baltic in relation to the following issues: denied boarding, delay, or cancellation; destruction, damage, loss, or delayed transportation of baggage; destruction, damage, or loss of items worn or carried by the passenger; problems faced by disabled passengers or passengers with reduced mobility when using air transport services; and any more general disputes arising where the consumer alleges that the business is not trading fairly.
Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 Regulation 1107/2006 on the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when traveling by air is provided for in Regulation No The monitoring of compliance with Regulation 1107/2006 is carried out and complaints in this area are handled by the Civil Aviation Administration.


Baggage
In case of problems with a baggage the Convention for the unification of certain rules for international carriage by air, signed in Montreal on 28 May 1999 , shall be applied.
Passengers may claim for damages caused by destruction, damage, loss or delay of their baggage on a flight If the air carrier does not agree with passenger’s claim, passengers are entitled to go to court.
For damage to checked-in baggage, passenger must claim in writing within 7 days of its return and for delayed baggage within 21 days of its return.
Passenger can submit claim to air carrier with which passenger has a contract or from that actually operating the flight, if they are different.