Air passenger rights in the European Union
Under EEU and Irish law, you have certain rights when travelling by air with European airlines. All European airlines, travel agents, tour operators and all other businesses involved in providing air transport services must observe your rights. These rights relate to issues such as your right to receive accurate information about flights and reservations, obligations of travel agents, liability in the event of loss of baggage or accidents, compensation for overbooked flights, etc.
Information about flights and reserving your ticket
You have the right to neutral and accurate information when enquiring about or booking a flight through a travel agent. In other words, your travel agent must supply you with objective information (i.e., information that does not favour one airline over another or selective information about availability) when you enquire about flights and bookings from its computerised reservation system until you suggest a preference or give the travel agent an option. This mean your travel agent is obliged to supply information to you about all the options available for a journey in the following order:
- Non-stop flights (i.e., flights that operate directly from one point to your destination)
- Flights with intermediate stops (flights that operate with a stop-over and then proceed to destination)
- Connecting flights (i.e., a flight between two points where you must get on another flight to continue your journey)
- All the fares available from various airlines.
Your travel agent must give you access to the information that is shown up by the computer system if you request this either by allowing you to see the screen or by printing out this information for you. In turn, airlines are obliged to provide all information to the computerised system so that this information is available to your travel agent and to you. If you book your ticket with the airline, your travel agent must pass on all information available in the computer system about:
- The airline that will provide the service (if this is different from the airline mentioned on your ticket)
- Changes of aircraft that may occur during your journey
- Stops en route during your journey
- Transfers between airports that may occur during your journey.
Check-in and boarding
If you have a valid ticket and you have confirmed your reservation and presented yourself at check-in at the airport within the time specified by the airline but you are not allowed to board the aircraft because the flight is overbooked, you are entitled to compensation under EU law.
Air travel as part of a package holiday
If you are travelling by air as part of a package tour or holiday purchased in Europe, you must receive clear, accurate and precise information from the organiser about your trip. Read more about your rights including information about brochures, transfers, price stipulations and complaints.
Air transport for people with reduced mobility
Airlines and tour operators may not refuse to carry passengers, or to take bookings, on the basis of reduced mobility. This applies only to flights from airports in the EU. Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 provides that a reservation or boarding can only be refused for justified safety reasons or if the boarding or transport of a person with a disability or reduced mobility is physically impossible, due to the size of the aircraft or its doors. If the person is refused a reservation, an acceptable alternative must be offered. If boarding is refused, the person must be offered reimbursement or re-routing. Airport authorities are obliged to provide assistance without extra cost to the person concerned but it may levy a charge on all passengers.
Other provisions under this Regulation include:
- The airport authority is responsible for ensuring that the intending passenger receives the necessary assistance from designated points of arrival at the airport to the point of boarding the aircraft. There is a similar provision for passengers who are landing at an EU airport.
- On flights from EU airports, airlines are obliged to provide certain services, such as the carrying of wheelchairs or guide dogs, free of charge.
- Both airport authorities and airlines are obliged to provide training to their staff so that those providing direct assistance to people with disabilities and reduced mobility should know how to meet their needs. All staff working at the airport should be provided with disability equality and awareness training.
More information is available on the Commission for Aviation Regulation's flightrights.ie website.
Passengers reserving air tickets in Europe have the right to know about any personal details held or stored about them on computer reservation systems, what this information is to be used for and who is in control of this information. When your travel agent is making a reservation on your behalf using a computer system, he or she must tell you why the information is necessary, how long this information is being stored for and the name of the computer operator and how to contact this organisation. Anyone who requests this information must be given free access to information that is being stored about him or her on the computer reservation system. The Data Protection Commission in Ireland is in place to uphold your rights to information held about you on computer.
Advanced Passenger Information Requirements
Under a law implemented by the US Bureau of Customs and Border Protection airlines carrying passengers to the US are obliged to supply information about passengers in advance of travel.
Here are examples of the type of information an airline can/may request from you:
- Your first name (as on passport)
- Your family name (as on passport)
- Your sex
- Your date of birth (day/month/year) format
- Your nationality
- Your passport number
- Country where your passport was issued
- Expiry date of your passport (day/month/year) format
- Address while you are in the USA (including the ZIP code)
Please remember, you are obliged to supply this information to your airline. If you have any concerns regarding the supply of this information, contact your airline directly. The Data Protection Commission of Ireland has stated that airlines are obliged by law to provide this information to the US authorities and passengers will be notified of this requirement when they book flights.
Further information regarding the US Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) is available here.
Liability in the event of an accident
There is no financial limit on the liability of an EU airline for damages sustained by you in the event of death, wounding or any other bodily injury. For damages up to 113,100 SDRs, the airline cannot contest claims for compensation. Find out more about an airline's liability following the death or injury of a passenger, or damage or loss of luggage in our document on airline liability.
Enforcing your air passenger rights
The above rights have been set down either directly in EU law or in Irish law that has been introduced to bring EU legislation into effect. Airlines, travel agents, tour operators and all other businesses involved in providing air transport services must observe them. You should be aware of your rights and be prepared to defend them.
If you feel your rights have not been respected and you have not received the level of treatment or compensation to which you are entitled, you should contact the the Aviation Regulation Division at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport or the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and inform them about it. You can also contact the Directorate-General for Transport and Energy of the European Commission.