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Passengers must now be compensated when a flight in Europe leaves early due to a schedule change

Dec. 22, 2021
3 min read
Passengers must now be compensated when a flight in Europe leaves early due to a schedule change
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The European Union's generous passenger compensation rules just got even more generous.

The 27-nation bloc's top court on Tuesday ruled that compensation is now due when a flight departs more than an hour earlier than originally scheduled. When that happens within 14 days of departure, the flight is considered canceled under those rules, known as EU261.

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"Where a flight has been brought forward in this way, passengers are unable to use their time as they wish and to organize their trip or holiday in line with their expectations," the EU's Court of Justice said in a press release.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, frequent, close-in schedule changes have created headaches for travelers worldwide.

TPG's extensive guide to EU261 compensation can be found here. In short, the rules apply to flights that are within the EU or departing the EU — not flights that arrive into the EU from outside of the bloc. (The United Kingdom recently left the EU though it has a similar set of rules to EU261. However, this new development does not apply to the U.K.)

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Compensation for a delayed or canceled flight under EU261 is based on the distance of the flight, TPG's Juan Ruiz reports:

250 euros per passenger1,500 kilometers or less
400 euros per passengerMore than 1,500 kilometers within the EU and all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometers
600 euros per passengerMore than 3,500 kilometers

Under EU261, carriers can reduce the compensation that is due to passengers by 50% by rerouting them without delay. In Tuesday's ruling, that is explicitly not an option.

More: TPG’s guide to understanding EU261 flight compensation

So what should you do if you receive a late notice that your flight is leaving over an hour early? You should file an EU261 claim with your operating airline. The specific rules and deadlines governing EU261 compensation are based on the country where the airline is headquartered. Each carrier subject to EU261 has a website or information page regarding this delay. They range from massive European players like Lufthansa and Ryanair, to U.S. network carriers like Delta Air Lines, to Middle Eastern giants like Qatar Airways.

Featured image by LISBON, PORTUGAL - AUGUST 31: Ryanair Boeing 737-8AS takes off from Lisbon Humberto Delgado International Airport on the last day of August, coinciding with the end of Summer vacation period in Europe, during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic on August 31, 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal. The busy airport reflects that local and foreign tourism has picked up and life is returning to normal in Portugal as most of the population has been already vaccinated against COVID-19. Health authorities notified 1,908 new cases and 13 deaths associated with COVID-19 within 24 hours, with the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 being the only one circulating in the country and responsible for 100% of present infections. (Photo by Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
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