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Flight Cancellation Rights in France

Friday 13 August 2021

What are your rights as an airline passenger in the event of a delayed or cancelled flight to or from France?

The rights of those departing from a destination in the EU, as well as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, are subject to European law.

These rights apply whatever the destination, whether inside or outside of Europe. 

They also apply to flights from outside the EU to the EU, provided it was operated by a European carrier.

Although the UK is no longer a member of the EU, the British government have stated that the existing rights will continue to apply to UK passengers travelling from the UK, with their guidance stating: 'For air passengers on a flight departing the UK, the same passenger rights as apply today will continue to apply after the UK leaves the EU. For EU registered airlines, EU law will continue to apply in respect of flights to and from the EU.'

So if your flight from the UK is by an EU carrier, then EU rules apply, unless you have received compensation under UK rules.

The rules apply equally to low cost and charter flights, as well as to regular flights.

Your Flight has been Cancelled

The airline is required to provide you with a written statement that explains your rights. They must then offer you either a refund of your ticket or another flight. The refund should be made within 7 days, although in practice during the present Covid crisis it normally takes longer.

In 2020, following a decision from the European Court of Justice, a French court ruled that a passenger does not have to produce a boarding card to be entitled to compensation. The same rule applies to delays.

Even if you booked with an intermediary, such as Expedia, Lastminute, etc. It is the airline who is responsible for reimbursing your flight, although once again delays will arise. Make sure you supply all your booking details to the airline.

Nevertheless, as a result of Covid, under European law the company has the right to offer you a credit of the same amount towards another later flight. You are not obliged to accept their offer and if you do not do so they are obliged to reimburse within 14 days. The credit offer should have a validity period of a minimum of 12 months from the date of notification of the credit.

If you choose to take another flight, it should be under comparable conditions, and taken ‘at the earliest possible opportunity’, or otherwise at your convenience, subject to seat availability.

If you have booked a package holiday or flight with a hotel, then the company are required to compensate you in full for the flight and accommodation, or, by agreement, offer an alternative holiday. If the trip is cancelled by the company/travel agency due to Covid you are entitled to full reimbursement within 14 days. You are not entitled to additional compensation, unless expressly provided for in their terms.

If you cancel your flight or holiday for fear of Covid or a positive test, you are not legally entitled to reimbursement or compensation, unless otherwise provided for in the terms of the offer. During the present crisis many companies are making such an offer. You may also be obliged to pay an administrative charge associated with cancelling a package holiday. If you have travel insurance or a credit card offering travel insurance it is highly unlikely to be covered, unless you could prove illness.

If the replacement flight lands at another airport, then the airline is required to provide transport to take you to the original airport, or other mutually agreed destination.

If you decide not to take another flight then you are entitled to be flown back to your point of departure as well as a full refund of your ticket price, including any connecting parts of the journey already flown if the flight taken no longer serves any purpose. The refund must be paid within 7 days.

If you are travelling with a low-cost airline you may not benefit from this latter rule (unless both flights are cancelled), as most do not operate through-ticketing.

Compensation

Whichever option you choose, you are entitled to a flat-rate compensation, the amount of which depends on the length of the original flight and provided the flight was cancelled less than 14 days prior to departure.

This compensation is halved if you are offered another flight that does not exceed the scheduled arrival by a specific period

  • Up to 1,500 kilometres, the compensation payable is €250, which drops to €125 if the delay is less than two hours.
  • Up to 3,500 kilometres the sum is €400 or €200 if the delay does not exceed three hours.
  • For other flights the sums are €600 or €300 if the delay is not greater than four hours.

If you consider you have incurred costs that exceed the level of compensation payable, then you can ultimately make a claim in the courts. Some airlines offer travel vouchers in lieu of cash, but you need to be careful with the terms of such vouchers, as they are likely to contain restrictions.

No compensation is payable if you were informed of the cancellation at least 14 days before the scheduled departure time, or between fourteen and seven days’ notice if a re-routing offer means the scheduled time is only changed by two hours, with arrival within four hours of the scheduled time.

Less than 7 days then no compensation is payable if they get you to your destination within 2 hours of the scheduled time, and the flight does not leave more than 1 hour before the original departure time.

Most importantly, an airline is not obliged to offer compensation if it can prove that it was caused by ‘circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken’ ie, 'force majeure'. Covid is considered to be such a circumstance, so compensation is not payable. Technical problems with the aircraft are not considered exceptional. Strikes are also generally considered to be extraordinary circumstances, provided there is a clear link.

If you have paid for your travel using a credit card that offers travel insurance, or you have taken out separate travel insurance, then this cover will similarly not apply in the case of force majeure. No travel policy will cover an event that is considered to be an 'act of God' - an event that is ‘irresistible, unavoidable, and external’.

Accordingly, cancellation of the flight in the event of bad weather, geological eruption, or a strike will normally mean no compensation is payable.

Where a crew is not available, the aircraft is faulty, or there is merely late running of the aircraft, you are entitled to compensation. However, even if you know the aircraft is delayed, if you do not check-in on time, you can be refused compensation.

Food and Care

If you are stranded at the airport waiting for a replacement flight, you are entitled to meals and refreshments, two free telephone calls/fax/text messages.

If the flight does not leave the same day, then you are entitled to hotel accommodation. There is nothing stated about what form the food and refreshment should take, other than that it should be ‘appropriate’. Neither can you buy them yourself and seek compensation.

You are Denied Boarding (Overbooking)

If you arrive at the airport and you are denied boarding due to lack of seats, your rights are the same as those as if the flight was cancelled.

If the operator has overbooked the aircraft, then they are obliged to ask for volunteers to offer up their seats.

Most will offer another flight, plus some cash. You have the right to negotiate your own terms, which the airline can accept or refuse.

You have no entitlement to other compensation if you volunteer your seat.

If they cannot find enough volunteers the aircraft will choose from amongst the remaining passengers. You will be offered the next flight, refreshments, and compensation on the same terms as above.

Your Flight is Delayed

If the flight is delayed by more than 2 hours you are entitled to receive formal notice of your rights from the airline.

The rules do not make clear when a delayed flight constitutes a cancelled flight and the European Commission has expressed concern that some airlines abuse the spirit of the regulations to avoid the payment of compensation for a cancelled flight.

Right to Care

You are entitled to a right to care on the same basis as cancelled flights, in the following circumstances:

  • Two Hours - Up to 1,500 km
  • Three Hours – Up to 3,500 km
  • Four Hours – Above 3.500 km

Unaccompanied children and those with mobility problems (including those accompanying them) are entitled to immediate care.

Refund of Ticket

You are entitled to a refund of your ticket once the flight delay reaches 5 hours. You will also be entitled to refund of other journeys taken in connection with the flight on the same basis as cancellation of the flight.

Lost or Damaged Baggage

These rights apply in those countries who have signed the 1999 Montreal Convention, and the Varsovie Convention 1929, which would include most international passengers. If you notice any damage, then you should notify the airline immediately, or at the latest within seven days.

If your baggage is lost then you should immediately contact the Lost Baggage service of the airline.

Even if later found once you have left the airport you can send the airline a claim for any inconvenience caused, within 21 days (14 days in the case of Varsovie Convention). You should do so by recorded delivery letter.

The amount of the compensation for lost or damaged cannot exceed 1,000 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), which is equivalent to around €1,000. As proof of loss and value of goods is not easily established, the airline is entitled to compensate you by weight of goods lost, equivalent to around €20 per kg.

Accordingly, if the value of your baggage exceeds this sum, you should consider taking separate insurance, unless covered through your credit/debit card used to book the flight.

Enforcement

The enforcement body for these regulations in the UK is the Civil Aviation Authority, whilst in France it is the DGAC (Direction de la régulation économique Bureau de la facilitation et des clients du transport aérien) in Paris. Other countries have their own enforcement bodies. The relevant competent body is the one located in the country of departure of the flight.

It is also possible in France to complain to the Médiateur du Tourisme et des Voyages (MTV), but only provided the company has signed up to accept to use this service. Both Ryanair and Easyjet are members as are most travel companies in France.

If you are not successful with your claim, then you would need to take legal action. 

*Updated August 2021

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