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Some US domestic flights now eligible for cash if delayed or canceled

April 14, 2022
4 min read
Some US domestic flights now eligible for cash if delayed or canceled
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In a big win for U.S.-bound passengers inconvenienced by delayed or canceled international flights, the Court of Justice of the European Union broadened existing EU compensation rules last week to apply to domestic connecting flights originating in the EU.

This is welcome news for travelers as passengers on more flights will be eligible for a monetary reward under EU261.

The expanded rule means flights within the EU, flights departing from the EU to the United States (and other countries) and even the connecting flights you are booked on within the U.S. will be eligible for compensation when delayed or canceled.

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In the U.S., there is no federal law requiring domestic airlines to provide passengers with money or other compensation for delayed or canceled flights. Instead, it's up to the discretion of each airline to implement individual policies, which at best result in credits for meals or hotels.

Generally, airlines don't have to reimburse you for anything in the event of "extraordinary events" such as weather or government shutdowns. That doesn't change under the new rules. However, you are eligible for compensation under other circumstances (like bad airline operations) in the European Union. This new ruling means that if you are on any flight originating in Europe even if you are ticketed on a different airline for a connecting flight, you'll be eligible to get money back.

The EU law, implemented in 2005, refunds passengers between $270-$650 for flight cancellations within 14 days of travel or delays exceeding three hours. The exact amount of compensation awarded depends on the distance of the flight, ranging from flights less than 932 miles to those covering more than 2,174 miles.

On April 8, Europe's highest court ruled that law is now applicable for passengers on connecting flights in the U.S. operated by U.S. carriers serving as EU partner airlines or codeshare flights under the rules of EU261.

"It thus follows from the clear wording of that provision that the situation of passengers on a connecting flight who have departed from an airport located in the territory of a Member State falls within the scope," the court wrote in its ruling, which resulted from a lawsuit regarding a delay in a stopover at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) on a flight originating from Brussels Airport (BRU).

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Three passengers experienced the delay on a Lufthansa-ticketed flight from Brussels to Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) in California that included a connecting flight in Newark, operated by United Airlines.

The connecting flight from New Jersey to San Jose was delayed by nearly four hours. Even though this delay affected a U.S. flight route, the court declared that these travelers were still eligible under the EU law because their journey on a single ticket originated in Belgium.

"[It] must be interpreted as meaning that a passenger on a connecting flight, comprising two legs and subject to a single booking with a Community carrier, departing from an airport located in the territory of a Member State and arriving at an airport located in a third country via another airport in that third country," the court explained, "is entitled to compensation from the third-country air carrier which operated the entirety of that flight acting on behalf of that Community carrier, where that passenger has reached his or her final destination with a delay of more than three hours caused in the second leg of the said flight."

This means that moving forward, all domestic flights within the U.S., booked on a single itinerary ticket, are subject to compensation under EU261 as long as such bookings were bought and sold by a European carrier.

With the new ruling in tow, the onward airline doesn't need to be European, as was the case with United.

Previously, the law did not cover domestic flights within the U.S., which are operated by American carriers.

Information on how to file relevant claims is available via the European Union's Your Europe website.

Read more: TPG’s guide to understanding EU261 flight compensation

Featured image by Bloomberg via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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There’s a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It’s been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you’re hitting the skies soon, you’ll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there’s no reason that the foodie shouldn’t add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

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  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits.
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