Bus and coach passenger rights in the European Union
Since March 2013 bus and coach passengers have a minimum set of rights when travelling in the European Union. Regulation 181/2011 concerning the rights of passengers in bus and coach transport applies to passengers travelling with regular services that operate at specified intervals along specified routes, with passengers being picked up and set down at predetermined stopping points. Either the boarding or the alighting point must be within the European Union.
Some of the Regulation’s provisions are mandatory and apply to all services. The other rights available under the Regulation only apply where the scheduled distance of the service is 250 km or more.
An EU member state may grant an exemption from the application of the entire Regulation for a period of 4 years in the case of a regular service where a significant part of the service (including at least one scheduled stop) operates outside the European Union. The exemption may be renewed once for another 4 years.
The European Commission has provided an application for smartphones which gives information on passengers’ rights including bus and coach passengers.
COVID-19 (coronavirus) and travel rights
The following provisions of the Regulation apply to all regular bus and coach passenger services, irrespective of the scheduled distance of the service:
- When buying a bus or coach ticket, you may not be discriminated against, for example, by being charged a higher price because of your nationality or where you are buying the ticket from.
- You can't be stopped from buying a ticket, making a reservation or getting on board because of your reduced mobility, unless this is strictly necessary to comply with health and safety requirements, or where the infrastructure cannot guarantee safe transport.
- Where a carrier or a terminal operator is liable for the loss of or damage to your wheelchair or other mobility equipment, the amount of compensation they are liable for is the cost of replacement or repair of the equipment lost or damaged. (A terminal means a staffed terminal and has facilities such as a check-in counter, waiting room or ticket office.)
- You have the right to adequate information throughout your travel. This right includes the right to be informed about passenger rights and the contact details of national enforcement bodies. The information should be available in accessible formats.
- Bus and coach carriers are required to set up a complaints handling mechanism to help passengers who are trying to avail of their rights under this Regulation.
- Every member state must designate a body responsible for the enforcement of this Regulation (see ‘Complaints and enforcement’ below).
The following information covers additional passenger’s rights under the Regulation’s provisions where the scheduled distance of the regular service is 250 km or more. However, an EU member state may grant an exemption from these additional rights to a purely domestic regular service for a period of 4 years, which may be renewed once for a further 4 years.
Carriers must issue tickets to passengers, unless other documents give entitlement to transport. A ticket may be issued in an electronic format.
Compensation in the event of accidents
You are entitled to compensation for death or personal injury, as well as for loss of or damage to luggage, due to accidents arising out of the use of bus or coach services. The conditions and amount of compensation is governed by the applicable national law. The compensation is not automatic and must be claimed in court.
Any maximum limit provided by the applicable national law to the compensation shall not be less than:
- €220,000 per passenger
- €1,200 per item of luggage
In the event of damage to wheelchairs, other mobility equipment or assistive devices the amount of compensation shall always be equal to the cost of replacement or repair of the equipment lost or damaged.
The carrier is required to provide you with reasonable assistance with regard to your immediate practical needs following the accident. Such assistance shall include, where necessary, accommodation, food, clothes, transport and the facilitation of first aid. The carrier may limit the total cost of accommodation to €80 per night and to a maximum of 2 nights.
Any assistance provided by the carrier does not constitute admission of liability.
Delays and cancellations
If there is an overbooking or the carrier expects a service from a terminal to be cancelled or delayed by more than 120 minutes beyond the scheduled time of departure, you have the right to choose between:
- Re-routing to the final destination under comparable conditions at no additional costs and at the earliest opportunity
- Reimbursement of the full ticket price within 14 days and, where relevant, a free-of-charge return service to the first point of departure, as set out in the transport contract, at the earliest opportunity
The same right to choose is applicable if the service is cancelled or delayed in departure from a bus stop for more than 120 minutes.
The reimbursement should be paid in money, unless you accept another form of reimbursement.
If the carrier fails to offer you either reimbursement or rerouting, you have the right to compensation amounting to 50 % of the ticket price in addition to the reimbursement. This right to compensation and the eventual reimbursement of the ticket does not prevent you from seeking damages through the courts in respect of loss resulting from cancellation or delay of the service.
If the bus or coach breaks down during the journey, the carrier must send another bus or coach to the place where the original bus or coach broke down, either to:
- Continue the service and carry the passengers to their destination or
- Transport the passengers to a suitable waiting point or terminal from where continuation of the journey becomes possible.
Provision of information
If there is a cancellation or delay in departure when you are departing from a terminal you should be informed of the situation as soon as possible and no later than 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time. You should also be informed of the estimated departure time as soon as this information is available. If you miss a connecting service due to a cancellation or delay, you should be informed of alternative connections.
If it is feasible, the above information should be provided by electronic means within the 30 minute time-limit, even if you are departing from a bus stop, providing you have requested that you be notified electronically and have supplied the necessary contact details.
Assistance while waiting
If the scheduled duration of your long distance journey is more than 3 hours and the service is cancelled or delayed in departing from the terminal for more than 90 minutes, you have a right to:
- Snacks, meals or refreshments in relation to the waiting time or delay, providing they are available or can reasonably be supplied
- Hotel or other accommodation, as well as transport between the terminal and the place of accommodation, where a stay of 1 or more nights becomes necessary. (The cost of accommodation is subject to a maximum of €80 per night and to a maximum of 2 nights.)
The requirement to provide accommodation does not apply where the carrier proves that the cancellation or delay is caused by severe weather conditions or a major natural disaster.
You are not entitled to assistance or rerouting/reimbursement if you have an open ticket that does not specify the time of departure. However, you are entitled to them if you hold a travel pass or a season ticket.
The Regulation does not prevent you seeking damages in the courts in respect of any loss that results from the cancellation or delay of the service.
People with disabilities
People with disabilities and those with reduced mobility have the right to obtain a ticket and a reservation for any regular service at no extra cost. They cannot be refused a ticket or reservation except where it is necessary in order to meet health and safety requirements or where it is not possible to transport them due to the design of the vehicle or infrastructure.
If you are refused you should be informed immediately why you are being refused and, if you request it, you must be provided with the reasons in writing within 5 working days. You must also be informed of any acceptable alternative service operated by the carrier.
If the reasons for you being refused a booking or boarding can be removed by the presence of someone who can provide the necessary assistance you may request that you be accompanied by someone of your choice, free of charge.
If you hold a ticket or a reservation and have notified the carrier about your specific needs as required and you are nonetheless denied boarding on the ground of your disability or reduced mobility, you can choose between reimbursement and rerouting (rerouting is dependent upon the availability of appropriate travel services).
Member states are required to designate terminals where assistance is available for people with disabilities and those with reduced mobility free of charge. Ireland has designated the following terminals:
- Busarus, Dublin 2
- Cork Bus Station, Parnell Place, Cork
- Sligo Station, Lord Edward Street, Sligo
- Galway Coach Station, Fairgreen Road, Galway
Assistance to people with disabilities
Carriers and terminal operators are required to provide assistance free of charge to people with disabilities and to those with reduced mobility. You must notify the carrier, terminal operator, travel agent or tour operator from whom you buy your ticket of your need for assistance at least 36 hours before it is needed.
You must arrive at the terminal at the time you are asked to, but no more than 60 minutes before the scheduled departure time. If no arrival time is mentioned, you should arrive 30 minutes in advance.
When a carrier or terminal operator is liable for the loss of or damage to your wheelchair or other mobility equipment, it should make every effort to temporarily replace the mobility equipment that is lost or damaged, if necessary.
Complaints and enforcement
Carriers must set up a complaints handling mechanism to help passengers who are trying to avail of their rights under this Regulation. If you want to make a complaint you should do so within 3 months of the scheduled service. You should receive a reply within 1 month from the carrier.
Every member state must designate a body responsible for the enforcement of this Regulation. The National Transport Authority is the designated enforcement body (pdf) in Ireland. If you are dissatisfied with an Irish carrier’s decision and your rights under the Regulation have been denied, or you did not receive a reply within 1 month of making the complaint, you can make a complaint to the National Transport Authority. Information on making a complaint is available on its website.