Flight brought forward, now what?
Has your flight been cancelled or delayed? Or were you denied boarding without a valid reason? European legislation determines what you are entitled to. However, the legislation does not cover flights with an earlier departure time. What are your rights in such situations?
The European Court of Justice has provided an answer to this question in its judgment of 21 December 2021. The ruling is explained as follows:
- What has the European Court of Justice decided?
- What are you entitled to in the event of an earlier flight?
- When can you ask for compensation?
- What kind of compensation can you ask for?
- What happens if you have booked via a travel agency or booking site?
- What happens in the event of force majeure?
- How to request compensation from the airline?
The European Court of Justice has decreed that a flight departure which is brought forward by more than one hour must be considered as cancelled. You will consequently have the same rights as those provided by the European legislator in the event of a cancelled flight.
Whatever the reason for bringing the flight forward by more than one hour, you have the choice between:
- accepting the earlier flight
- being refunded for your reservation
Whether you choose to retain your ticket or have your reservation refunded, the European Court of Justice emphasizes that you are entitled to request compensation from the airline if your flight is brought forward by more than one hour, unless the change is due to extraordinary circumstances or you were notified accordingly in good time:
- at least 2 weeks before your departure
- between 2 weeks and 7 days before your departure and providing the new departure is scheduled no more than 2 hours before the original departure time and you arrive no more than 4 hours after the originally scheduled arrival time
- less than 7 days before your departure and providing the new departure time is no more than 1 hour before the original departure time of your flight and you arrive no more than 2 hours after the scheduled arrival time
Do you meet the above-mentioned conditions? If so, you can get financial compensation for each passenger in the amount of:
- 250 euro for flights covering a distance of up to 1,500 km
- 400 euro for flights of more than 1,500 km within the European Union, and for flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km outside the EU
- 600 euro for other flights
Please note that the airline cannot under any circumstances reduce this amount by half. Has the departure time of your flight been brought forward by more than one hour? If so, the total amount is due.
You booked an airline ticket via a travel agency or booking site and were not notified in good time of the cancellation, delay or change of departure time of your flight by any of the parties involved? You are entitled to fixed compensation even if the airline had provided this information to the travel agent or booking site. This was decided by the European Court of Justice in a previous ruling on 11 May 2017 and reiterated in its judgment of 21 December 2021. This does not apply if the amendment of the departure time is due to extraordinary circumstances.
Please note: the airline that operated or would have operated the flight is responsible for paying the fixed compensation. Not the airline or booking site that sold the flight. Even if the airline had notified the booking site or travel agency of the earlier departure time but did not notify you of this change or did not do so in time.
Has your flight been brought forward due to exceptional circumstances? If so, the airline does not have to pay you any compensation.
But what is a case of force majeure? This includes but is not limited to:
- political instability
- adverse weather conditions
- safety/security risks
- strikes that originated outside the airline
A technical problem? The Court of Justice of the European Union does not consider this force majeure as such.
Good to know: Not convinced of the reason given by the airline? If so, complete the air passenger complaint form and appeal to one of the enforcement bodies appointed by the European Commission and the Member States. You should consult the competent authority of the country where your plane should have taken off. Are you departing from a non-EU country? If so, contact the competent authority in your country of arrival.
Are you entitled to compensation? If so, contact the airline requesting a refund and follow their relevant procedures, which can usually be found on the airline's website.