The European Union defines a set of passenger rights in the EU that are common to all means of public transport by bus, by train, by ship and by plane. The European Court has recently examined the scope and the action of the Regulation in order to determine whether passengers’ rights are effectively protected and whether they are enforced. Common rules have been developed to ensure that passengers receive at least a minimum level of assistance in case of serious delay or cancellation of their voyage, regardless of the modes of transportation and in particular, to help and protect vulnerable persons. The rules also provide for compensation schemes. To support the expansion of the travel industry, the European Union has taken steps to ensure a minimum level of protection for passengers traveling with the four modes of public transport: air, rail, naval and bus. These rules set out a set of “basic” rights common to all means of transport: non-discrimination, special protection for passengers with reduced mobility, passenger information, national control bodies and complaint handling systems. They also set up assistance and compensation mechanisms in the event of cancellation or delay, which are specific to each mode of transport and which must always be implemented by the carrier concerned.

10 core EU passenger rights

You don’t have to be an expert in aviation and shipping law to know the fundamental rights of passengers.

1. The right to non-discrimination in access to transport

Action will be taken against direct or indirect discrimination on grounds of nationality, disability or place of residence;

2. The right to mobility

Accessibility and assistance at no additional cost for passengers with disability and reduced mobility.

3. The right to information

Passengers must be informed before the purchase of tickets, at various stages of travel and, importantly, in cases of disruption.

4. The right to renounce travelling in case of disruption

Right to withdraw from the contract and reimbursement of the ticket price in case of prolonged delays, cancellations or refusal of boarding.

5. Fulfillment of the transport contract in case of disruption

The right to receive alternative transport solutions / services as soon as possible or to make a new reservation in the event of prolonged delays, cancellations or refusal of boarding.

6. The right to have assistance in case of delay or cancellation

Proactive measures and services to ensure the applicability of the right to assistance

7. The right to compensation under certain circumstances

Financial compensation calculated as a proportion of the ticket value in the event of prolonged delays, canceled journeys and in case of involuntary boarding in the case of air transport;

8. Carrier liability towards passengers and their baggage

Employer liability and right to compensation in the event of death or injury of the passengers or in situations regarding the baggage damage, for example.

9. Quick and accessible system of complaint handling

Right to lodge a complaint with carrier if dissatisfied with service. Right to subsequently lodge a complaint with the responsible National Enforcement Body (NEB).

10. The right to full application and effective enforcement of EU law

The right to count on the proper enforcement of passenger rights in the EU by transport operators. Ensuring compliance with EU rules must be carried out by competent national bodies and involves sanctioning the violation of rights.

If these rights are violated, you can contact a lawyer with experience in aviation and shipping law as Hammond Partnership lawyers.

Frequently asked questions


1. If a flight suffers a four-hour delay, is there a right to have financial compensation?

If the flight has a delay of more than three hours, you may be entitled to compensation only if the airline cannot prove that the delay was caused by exceptional circumstances that could not have been avoided even if all the measures had been taken.

2. A technical failure of the airplane can be considered an “extraordinary circumstance”?

The term ‘extraordinary circumstances’ applies in cases out of the ordinary, such as: acts of terrorism or sabotage, extreme weather conditions, security risks, strike, or a medical emergency. However, it cannot be considered an exceptional circumstance if the technical problem occurred during a normal maintenance operation of the aircraft or if it is caused by the non-maintenance of the aircraft.

3. When the flight is canceled, is there a deadline for bringing legal action to obtain compensation?

This depends on national legislation, so the eventual deadline varies from one country to another. In such situations, the national law enforcement body in the country concerned or a national consumer center should be consulted.

4. Is it mandatory that the total price of the ticket (including taxes) must be communicated by the airlines at the beginning of the procedure? Yes, every cost (ticket price, fees, surcharges and commissions) requires clear and visible display.