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
(Text with EEA relevance)
THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL OF THE
Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European
Community, and in particular Article 80(2) thereof,
Having regard to the proposal from the Commission (1),
Having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and
Social Committee (2),
After consulting the Committee of the Regions,
Acting in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article
251 of the Treaty (3), in the light of the joint text approved by
the Conciliation Committee on 1 December 2003,
(1) Action by the Community in the field of air transport
should aim, among other things, at ensuring a high level
of protection for passengers. Moreover, full account
should be taken of the requirements of consumer protection
(2) Denied boarding and cancellation or long delay of flights
cause serious trouble and inconvenience to passengers.
(3) While Council Regulation (EEC) No 295/91 of 4
February 1991 establishing common rules for a denied
boarding compensation system in scheduled air transport
(4) created basic protection for passengers, the
number of passengers denied boarding against their will
remains too high, as does that affected by cancellations
without prior warning and that affected by long delays.
(4) The Community should therefore raise the standards of
protection set by that Regulation both to strengthen the
rights of passengers and to ensure that air carriers
operate under harmonised conditions in a liberalised
(5) Since the distinction between scheduled and non-scheduled
air services is weakening, such protection should
apply to passengers not only on scheduled but also on
non-scheduled flights, including those forming part of
(6) The protection accorded to passengers departing from
an airport located in a Member State should be extended
to those leaving an airport located in a third country for
one situated in a Member State, when a Community
carrier operates the flight.
(7) In order to ensure the effective application of this Regulation,
the obligations that it creates should rest with the
operating air carrier who performs or intends to
perform a flight, whether with owned aircraft, under dry
or wet lease, or on any other basis.
(8) This Regulation should not restrict the rights of the
operating air carrier to seek compensation from any
person, including third parties, in accordance with the
(9) The number of passengers denied boarding against their
will should be reduced by requiring air carriers to call
for volunteers to surrender their reservations, in
exchange for benefits, instead of denying passengers
boarding, and by fully compensating those finally denied
17.2.2004 EN Official Journal of the European Union L 46/1
(1) OJ C 103 E, 30.4.2002, p. 225 and OJ C 71 E, 25.3.2003, p. 188.
(2) OJ C 241, 7.10.2002, p. 29.
(3) Opinion of the European Parliament of 24 October 2002 (OJ C 300
E, 11.12.2003, p. 443), Council Common Position of 18 March
2003 (OJ C 125 E, 27.5.2003, p. 63) and Position of the European
Parliament of 3 July 2003. Legislative Resolution of the European
Parliament of 18 December 2003 and Council Decision of 26
(4) OJ L 36, 8.2.1991, p. 5.
(10) Passengers denied boarding against their will should be
able either to cancel their flights, with reimbursement of
their tickets, or to continue them under satisfactory
conditions, and should be adequately cared for while
awaiting a later flight.
(11) Volunteers should also be able to cancel their flights,
with reimbursement of their tickets, or continue them
under satisfactory conditions, since they face difficulties
of travel similar to those experienced by passengers
denied boarding against their will.
(12) The trouble and inconvenience to passengers caused by
cancellation of flights should also be reduced. This
should be achieved by inducing carriers to inform
passengers of cancellations before the scheduled time of
departure and in addition to offer them reasonable rerouting,
so that the passengers can make other arrangements.
Air carriers should compensate passengers if they
fail to do this, except when the cancellation occurs in
extraordinary circumstances which could not have been
avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.
(13) Passengers whose flights are cancelled should be able
either to obtain reimbursement of their tickets or to
obtain re-routing under satisfactory conditions, and
should be adequately cared for while awaiting a later
(14) As under the Montreal Convention, obligations on operating
air carriers should be limited or excluded in cases
where an event has been caused by extraordinary
circumstances which could not have been avoided even
if all reasonable measures had been taken. Such circumstances
may, in particular, occur in cases of political
instability, meteorological conditions incompatible with
the operation of the flight concerned, security risks,
unexpected flight safety shortcomings and strikes that
affect the operation of an operating air carrier.
(15) Extraordinary circumstances should be deemed to exist
where the impact of an air traffic management decision
in relation to a particular aircraft on a particular day
gives rise to a long delay, an overnight delay, or the
cancellation of one or more flights by that aircraft, even
though all reasonable measures had been taken by the
air carrier concerned to avoid the delays or cancellations.
(16) In cases where a package tour is cancelled for reasons
other than the flight being cancelled, this Regulation
should not apply.
(17) Passengers whose flights are delayed for a specified time
should be adequately cared for and should be able to
cancel their flights with reimbursement of their tickets
or to continue them under satisfactory conditions.
(18) Care for passengers awaiting an alternative or a delayed
flight may be limited or declined if the provision of the
care would itself cause further delay.
(19) Operating air carriers should meet the special needs of
persons with reduced mobility and any persons accompanying
(20) Passengers should be fully informed of their rights in the
event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long
delay of flights, so that they can effectively exercise their
(21) Member States should lay down rules on sanctions
applicable to infringements of the provisions of this
Regulation and ensure that these sanctions are applied.
The sanctions should be effective, proportionate and
(22) Member States should ensure and supervise general
compliance by their air carriers with this Regulation and
designate an appropriate body to carry out such enforcement
tasks. The supervision should not affect the rights
of passengers and air carriers to seek legal redress from
courts under procedures of national law.
(23) The Commission should analyse the application of this
Regulation and should assess in particular the opportunity
of extending its scope to all passengers having a
contract with a tour operator or with a Community
carrier, when departing from a third country airport to
an airport in a Member State.
(24) Arrangements for greater cooperation over the use of
Gibraltar airport were agreed in London on 2 December
1987 by the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom
in a joint declaration by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs
of the two countries. Such arrangements have yet to
enter into operation.
(25) Regulation (EEC) No 295/91 should accordingly be
HAVE ADOPTED THIS REGULATION:
1. This Regulation establishes, under the conditions specified
herein, minimum rights for passengers when:
(a) they are denied boarding against their will;
(b) their flight is cancelled;
(c) their flight is delayed.
L 46/2 EN Official Journal of the European Union 17.2.2004
2. Application of this Regulation to Gibraltar airport is
understood to be without prejudice to the respective legal positions
of the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom with
regard to the dispute over sovereignty over the territory in
which the airport is situated.
3. Application of this Regulation to Gibraltar airport shall
be suspended until the arrangements in the Joint Declaration
made by the Foreign Ministers of the Kingdom of Spain and
the United Kingdom on 2 December 1987 enter into operation.
The Governments of Spain and the United Kingdom will
inform the Council of such date of entry into operation.
For the purposes of this Regulation:
(a) ‘air carrier’ means an air transport undertaking with a valid
(b) ‘operating air carrier’ means an air carrier that performs or
intends to perform a flight under a contract with a
passenger or on behalf of another person, legal or natural,
having a contract with that passenger;
(c) ‘Community carrier’ means an air carrier with a valid operating
licence granted by a Member State in accordance with
the provisions of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2407/92 of
23 July 1992 on licensing of air carriers (1);
(d) ‘tour operator’ means, with the exception of an air carrier,
an organiser within the meaning of Article 2, point 2, of
Council Directive 90/314/EEC of 13 June 1990 on package
travel, package holidays and package tours (2);
(e) ‘package’ means those services defined in Article 2, point 1,
of Directive 90/314/EEC;
(f) ‘ticket’ means a valid document giving entitlement to transport,
or something equivalent in paperless form, including
electronic form, issued or authorised by the air carrier or
its authorised agent;
(g) ‘reservation’ means the fact that the passenger has a ticket,
or other proof, which indicates that the reservation has
been accepted and registered by the air carrier or tour
(h) ‘final destination’ means the destination on the ticket
presented at the check-in counter or, in the case of directly
connecting flights, the destination of the last flight; alternative
connecting flights available shall not be taken into
account if the original planned arrival time is respected;
(i) ‘person with reduced mobility’ means any person whose
mobility is reduced when using transport because of any
physical disability (sensory or locomotory, permanent or
temporary), intellectual impairment, age or any other cause
of disability, and whose situation needs special attention
and adaptation to the person’s needs of the services made
available to all passengers;
(j) ‘denied boarding’ means a refusal to carry passengers on a
flight, although they have presented themselves for
boarding under the conditions laid down in Article 3(2),
except where there are reasonable grounds to deny them
boarding, such as reasons of health, safety or security, or
inadequate travel documentation;
(k) ‘volunteer’ means a person who has presented himself for
boarding under the conditions laid down in Article 3(2)
and responds positively to the air carrier’s call for passengers
prepared to surrender their reservation in exchange for
(l) ‘cancellation’ means the non-operation of a flight which
was previously planned and on which at least one place
1. This Regulation shall apply:
(a) to passengers departing from an airport located in the territory
of a Member State to which the Treaty applies;
(b) to passengers departing from an airport located in a third
country to an airport situated in the territory of a Member
State to which the Treaty applies, unless they received
benefits or compensation and were given assistance in that
third country, if the operating air carrier of the flight
concerned is a Community carrier.
2. Paragraph 1 shall apply on the condition that passengers:
(a) have a confirmed reservation on the flight concerned and,
except in the case of cancellation referred to in Article 5,
present themselves for check-in,
— as stipulated and at the time indicated in advance and
in writing (including by electronic means) by the air
carrier, the tour operator or an authorised travel agent,
or, if no time is indicated,
— not later than 45 minutes before the published departure
(b) have been transferred by an air carrier or tour operator
from the flight for which they held a reservation to another
flight, irrespective of the reason.
3. This 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 programme or
other commercial programme by an air carrier or tour
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(1) OJ L 240, 24.8.1992, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 158, 23.6.1990, p. 59.
4. This Regulation shall only apply to passengers transported
by motorised fixed wing aircraft.
5. This Regulation shall apply to any operating air carrier
providing transport to passengers covered by paragraphs 1 and
2. Where an operating air carrier which has no contract with
the passenger performs obligations under this Regulation, it
shall be regarded as doing so on behalf of the person having a
contract with that passenger.
6. This Regulation shall not affect the rights of passengers
under Directive 90/314/EEC. This Regulation shall not apply in
cases where a package tour is cancelled for reasons other than
cancellation of the flight.
1. When an operating air carrier reasonably expects to deny
boarding on a flight, it shall first call for volunteers to
surrender their reservations in exchange for benefits under
conditions to be agreed between the passenger concerned and
the operating air carrier. Volunteers shall be assisted in accordance
with Article 8, such assistance being additional to the
benefits mentioned in this paragraph.
2. If an insufficient number of volunteers comes forward to
allow the remaining passengers with reservations to board the
flight, the operating air carrier may then deny boarding to
passengers against their will.
3. If boarding is denied to passengers against their will, the
operating air carrier shall immediately compensate them in
accordance with Article 7 and assist them in accordance with
Articles 8 and 9.
1. In case of cancellation of a flight, the passengers
(a) be offered assistance by the operating air carrier in accordance
with Article 8; and
(b) be offered assistance by the operating air carrier in accordance
with Article 9(1)(a) and 9(2), as well as, in event of rerouting
when the reasonably expected time of departure of
the new flight is at least the day after the departure as it
was planned for the cancelled flight, the assistance specified
in Article 9(1)(b) and 9(1)(c); and
(c) have the right to compensation by the operating air carrier
in accordance with Article 7, unless:
(i) they are informed of the cancellation at least two
weeks before the scheduled time of departure; or
(ii) 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;
(iii) 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.
2. When passengers are informed of the cancellation, an
explanation shall be given concerning possible alternative transport.
3. An operating air carrier shall not be obliged to pay
compensation in accordance with Article 7, if it can prove that
the cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances
which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable
measures had been taken.
4. 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
1. When an operating air carrier reasonably expects a flight
to be delayed beyond its scheduled time of departure:
(a) for two hours or more in the case of flights of 1 500 kilometres
or less; or
(b) for three hours or more in the case of all intra-Community
flights of more than 1 500 kilometres and of all other
flights between 1 500 and 3 500 kilometres; or
(c) for four hours or more in the case of all flights not falling
under (a) or (b),
passengers shall be offered by the operating air carrier:
(i) the assistance specified in Article 9(1)(a) and 9(2); and
(ii) when the reasonably expected time of departure is at least
the day after the time of departure previously announced,
the assistance specified in Article 9(1)(b) and 9(1)(c); and
(iii) when the delay is at least five hours, the assistance specified
in Article 8(1)(a).
2. In any event, the assistance shall be offered within the
time limits set out above with respect to each distance bracket.
L 46/4 EN Official Journal of the European Union 17.2.2004
Right to compensation
1. Where reference is made to this Article, passengers shall
receive compensation amounting to:
(a) EUR 250 for all flights of 1 500 kilometres or less;
(b) EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than
1 500 kilometres, and for all other flights between 1 500
and 3 500 kilometres;
(c) EUR 600 for all flights not falling under (a) or (b).
In determining the distance, the basis shall be the last destination
at which the denial of boarding or cancellation will delay
the passenger’s arrival after the scheduled time.
2. When passengers are offered re-routing to their final
destination on an alternative flight pursuant to Article 8, the
arrival time of which does not exceed the scheduled arrival
time of the flight originally booked
(a) by two hours, in respect of all flights of 1 500 kilometres
or less; or
(b) by three hours, in respect of all intra-Community flights of
more than 1 500 kilometres and for all other flights
between 1 500 and 3 500 kilometres; or
(c) by four hours, in respect of all flights not falling under (a)
the operating air carrier may reduce the compensation
provided for in paragraph 1 by 50 %.
3. The compensation referred to in paragraph 1 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.
4. The distances given in paragraphs 1 and 2 shall be
measured by the great circle route method.
Right to reimbursement or re-routing
1. Where reference is made to this Article, passengers shall
be offered the choice between:
(a) — reimbursement within seven days, by the means
provided for in Article 7(3), of the full cost of the ticket
at the price at which it was bought, for the part or
parts of the journey not made, and for the part or parts
already made if the flight is no longer serving any
purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel
plan, together with, when relevant,
— a return flight to the first point of departure, at the
(b) re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their
final destination at the earliest opportunity; or
(c) re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their
final destination at a later date at the passenger’s convenience,
subject to availability of seats.
2. Paragraph 1(a) shall also apply to passengers whose
flights form part of a package, except for the right to reimbursement
where such right arises under Directive 90/314/EEC.
3. When, in the case where a town, city or region is served
by several airports, an operating air carrier offers a passenger a
flight to an airport alternative to that for which the booking
was made, the operating air carrier shall bear the cost of transferring
the passenger from that alternative airport either to that
for which the booking was made, or to another close-by destination
agreed with the passenger.
Right to care
1. Where reference is made to this Article, passengers shall
be offered free of charge:
(a) meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the
(b) hotel accommodation in cases
— where a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary,
— where a stay additional to that intended by the
passenger becomes necessary;
(c) transport between the airport and place of accommodation
(hotel or other).
2. In addition, passengers shall be offered free of charge two
telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails.
3. In applying this Article, the operating air carrier shall pay
particular attention to the needs of persons with reduced mobility
and any persons accompanying them, as well as to the
needs of unaccompanied children.
Upgrading and downgrading
1. If an operating air carrier places a passenger in a class
higher than that for which the ticket was purchased, it may not
request any supplementary payment.
2. If an operating air carrier places a passenger in a class
lower than that for which the ticket was purchased, it shall
within seven days, by the means provided for in Article 7(3),
(a) 30 % of the price of the ticket for all flights of 1 500 kilometres
or less, or
17.2.2004 EN Official Journal of the European Union L 46/5
(b) 50 % of the price of the ticket for all intra-Community
flights of more than 1 500 kilometres, except flights
between the European territory of the Member States and
the French overseas departments, and for all other flights
between 1 500 and 3 500 kilometres, or
(c) 75 % of the price of the ticket for all flights not falling
under (a) or (b), including flights between the European
territory of the Member States and the French overseas
Persons with reduced mobility or special needs
1. Operating air carriers shall give priority to carrying
persons with reduced mobility and any persons or certified
service dogs accompanying them, as well as unaccompanied
2. In cases of denied boarding, cancellation and delays of
any length, persons with reduced mobility and any persons
accompanying them, as well as unaccompanied children, shall
have the right to care in accordance with Article 9 as soon as
1. This Regulation shall apply without prejudice to a passenger’s
rights to further compensation. The compensation granted
under this Regulation may be deducted from such compensation.
2. Without prejudice to relevant principles and rules of
national law, including case-law, paragraph 1 shall not apply to
passengers who have voluntarily surrendered a reservation
under Article 4(1).
Right of redress
In cases where an operating air carrier pays compensation or
meets the other obligations incumbent on it under this Regulation,
no provision of this Regulation may be interpreted as
restricting its right to seek compensation from any person,
including third parties, in accordance with the law applicable.
In particular, this Regulation shall in no way restrict the operating
air carrier’s right to seek reimbursement from a tour
operator or another person with whom the operating air
carrier has a contract. Similarly, no provision of this Regulation
may be interpreted as restricting the right of a tour operator or
a third party, other than a passenger, with whom an operating
air carrier has a contract, to seek reimbursement or compensation
from the operating air carrier in accordance with applicable
Obligation to inform passengers of their rights
1. The operating air carrier shall ensure that at check-in a
clearly legible notice containing the following text is displayed
in a manner clearly visible to passengers: ‘If you are denied
boarding or if your flight is cancelled or delayed for at least
two hours, ask at the check-in counter or boarding gate for the
text stating your rights, particularly with regard to compensation
2. An operating air carrier denying boarding or cancelling a
flight shall provide each passenger affected with a written
notice setting out the rules for compensation and assistance in
line with this Regulation. It shall also provide each passenger
affected by a delay of at least two hours with an equivalent
notice. The contact details of the national designated body
referred to in Article 16 shall also be given to the passenger in
3. In respect of blind and visually impaired persons, the
provisions of this Article shall be applied using appropriate
Exclusion of waiver
1. Obligations vis-à-vis passengers pursuant to this Regulation
may not be limited or waived, notably by a derogation
or restrictive clause in the contract of carriage.
2. If, nevertheless, such a derogation or restrictive clause is
applied in respect of a passenger, or if the passenger is not
correctly informed of his rights and for that reason has
accepted compensation which is inferior to that provided for in
this Regulation, the passenger shall still be entitled to take the
necessary proceedings before the competent courts or bodies in
order to obtain additional compensation.
1. Each Member State shall designate a body responsible for
the enforcement of this Regulation as regards flights from
airports situated on its territory and flights from a third
country to such airports. Where appropriate, this body shall
take the measures necessary to ensure that the rights of passengers
are respected. The Member States shall inform the
Commission of the body that has been designated in accordance
with this paragraph.
L 46/6 EN Official Journal of the European Union 17.2.2004
2. Without prejudice to Article 12, each passenger may
complain to any body designated under paragraph 1, or to any
other competent body designated by a Member State, about an
alleged infringement of this Regulation at any airport situated
on the territory of a Member State or concerning any flight
from a third country to an airport situated on that territory.
3. The sanctions laid down by Member States for infringements
of this Regulation shall be effective, proportionate and
The Commission shall report to the European Parliament and
the Council by 1 January 2007 on the operation and the
results of this Regulation, in particular regarding:
— the incidence of denied boarding and of cancellation of
— the possible extension of the scope of this Regulation to
passengers having a contract with a Community carrier or
holding a flight reservation which forms part of a ‘package
tour’ to which Directive 90/314/EEC applies and who
depart from a third-country airport to an airport in a
Member State, on flights not operated by Community air
— the possible revision of the amounts of compensation
referred to in Article 7(1).
The report shall be accompanied where necessary by legislative
Regulation (EEC) No 295/91 shall be repealed.
Entry into force
This Regulation shall enter into force on 17 February 2005.
This Regulation shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States.
Done at Strasbourg, 11 February 2004.
For the European Parliament
For the Council
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