Air passenger rights in the European Union

Introduction

Under EU and Irish law, you have certain rights when travelling by air with European airlines. All European airlines, travel agents, tour operators and businesses providing air transport services must observe your rights.

This means that you have specific rights in relation to the following:

  • Access to information about flights and reservations
  • Obligations of travel agents
  • Liability in the event of loss of baggage or accidents
  • Compensation for overbooked flights

Travel agents and your flight information

You have the right to neutral and accurate information when booking a flight through a travel agent. In other words, your travel agent must supply you with objective information (for example information that does not favour one airline over another or selective information about availability). If a travel agent is using an online reservation system, they should remain impartial until you suggest a preference or give the travel agent an option. This means your travel agent must supply information on all of the following options (in this order):

  • Non-stop flights (flights that travel directly from one point to your destination)
  • Flights with intermediate stops (flights that operate with a stop-over and then proceed to your destination)
  • Connecting flights (a journey made up of two or more flights before you reach your destination)
  • All the available fares from various airlines

Your travel agent must give you access to the information shown on their computer (if you request this), either by showing you the screen or by providing a print out. Also, airlines must provide all information to the booking system, so that it can be seen by you and your travel agent.

When you book your ticket, your travel agent must pass on all of the information available including:

  • 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
  • Details of stops during your journey
  • Transfers between airports that may occur during your journey

Check-in and boarding

If the flight is overbooked and you are told you cannot board the aircraft, you will be entitled to compensation under EU law. However this only applies if:

  • You have a valid ticket and you have confirmed your reservation
  • You have presented yourself at check-in at the airport within the time specified by the airline

Package holidays

If you are travelling by air as part of a package holiday (or tour) purchased in the EU, you must receive clear and accurate information from the booking agent about your trip. Read more about your rights including information about brochures, transfers, price stipulations and complaints.

Passengers with reduced mobility

Airlines and tour operators cannot refuse to carry passengers (or take bookings), on the basis of reduced mobility. However this only applies to flights from airports in the EU. Under Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006, a reservation or boarding can only be refused for justified safety reasons. This also includes if the boarding or transport of a person with a disability or reduced mobility is physically impossible, either due to the size of the aircraft or its doors. If a person is refused a reservation, an acceptable alternative must be offered. If boarding is refused, the person must be offered either a refund or an alternative flight. Airport authorities must 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 following:

  • The airport authority is responsible for ensuring that the passenger receives the necessary assistance, from their point of arrival at the airport to the point of boarding the aircraft. There is a similar provision for passengers who are arriving at an EU airport.
  • On flights from EU airports, airlines must provide certain services, such as carrying wheelchairs or guide dogs, free of charge.
  • Both airport authorities and airlines must 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 from flightrights.ie, provided by the Commission for Aviation Regulation.

Data protection

Passengers who book flights in the EU have the right to know about any of their personal details which are being held or stored. They have a right to know what this information is to be used for and who is in control of this information. When your travel agent is making an online reservation on your behalf, they must tell you why the information is necessary, how long it is being stored for, which staff member is dealing with your booking and how to contact the organisation. Anybody who requests this information must be given free access to their personal details that are being stored. The Data Protection Commission has been established to uphold your rights to your personal information.

Flying to the US

Under a law implemented by the US Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, airlines carrying passengers to the US must supply information about passengers in advance of travel.

The following types of information can be requested by the airline:

  • Your first name (as on passport)
  • Your family name (as on passport)
  • Your sex
  • Your date of birth (day/month/year)
  • Your nationality
  • Your passport number
  • Country where your passport was issued
  • Expiry date of your passport (day/month/year)
  • 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 is available regarding the US Advance Passenger Information System (APIS).

Liability in the event of an accident

There is no financial limit on the liability of an EU airline for damages sustained in the event of death, wounding or any other bodily injury. For damages up to 113,100 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), the airline cannot contest claims for compensation.

Special Drawing Rights (SDR) are a mix of currency values established by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The current value of an SDR in Euro is available on the IMF's website. The liability limits are reviewed every 5 years. 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 air passenger rights explained in this document 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 make sure you are fully aware of your rights in the event of travel disruptions and disputes.

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 Aviation Regulation Division at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport or the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) and make a complaint. You can also contact the Directorate-General for Transport and Energy of the European Commission.

Page edited: 25 June 2019