What are your passenger rights when flying to Ireland? If you actually read the terms and conditions of a flight booking, it may seem at first glance that all you have is the right to remain silent and seated. But you actually have far more rights, courtesy of European Regulation EC 261/2004. These rights automatically apply to all airlines based in the EU - and all those flying to and from the EU.
So, in short, if you are flying into or out of Ireland, whether on Aer Lingus, Ryanair, Belavia or Delta, these are your passenger rights (under normal circumstances):
Your Right to Information
Your rights as an air passenger must be displayed at check-in. And should your flight be delayed by more than two hours, or you are denied boarding, you have to be given a written statement of your entitlements.
Your Rights If Denied Boarding Due to Overbooking
If an airline has overbooked a flight and all passengers actually show up - well, what a surprise! In this case the airline has to ask for volunteers to stay behind.
Apart from any compensation agreed between the volunteer and the airline, these passengers are entitled to alternative flights or a full refund.
Should there be no volunteers, the airline can refuse boarding to some passengers. These must be compensated for their denied boarding. Depending on the length if flight you can claim between € 250 and € 600.
You must also be offered an alternative flight or a full refund. If an alternative flight is not available within reasonable time, you may also be entitled to overnight accommodation, a free meal, refreshments and a telephone call.
Your Rights if Your Flights are Delayed
EC 261/2004 defines your rights in case of a longer delay.
15 minutes or so (actually the "normal delay" at Dublin Airport) do not count.
You are eligible for compensation after the following delays:
- Two hours if your flight is less than 1,500 km
- Three hours for flight distances within the EU greater than 1,500 km or flights to/from outside the EU spanning less than 3,500 km
- Four hours for all flights further than 3,500 km
If any flight is delayed longer than five hours you are automatically entitled to reimbursement if you decide not to fly.
Your airline has to provide a free meal and refreshments after these delays, as well as a free telephone call and even free accommodation and transport if the flight is delayed overnight.
In addition the Montreal Convention provides for possible financial compensation if you can prove that the delay has caused you a loss.
Your Rights if Your Flights are Cancelled
Flight cancelled? In this case the options are easy - you can choose between a full refund or a re-routing to your final destination. In addition you are entitled to free meals, refreshments and a telephone call. If your flight is cancelled at short notice you may also be entitled to € 250 to € 600 compensation.
Exceptions ... As Usual
Have you ever wondered why nobody in "Die Hard 2" asked for a free meal?
Easy - there are extraordinary circumstances under which an airline could never be expected to operate within normal parameters.
Generally speaking you are not entitled to anything in cases of delays or cancellations caused by
- Political instability
- Bad weather
- A security risk
- An unexpected flight risk
In short - if you find yourself in a war zone or the eye of the hurricane, a flight delay should really be the least of your worries.
The Montreal Convention - Further Rights
In addition to the above rules, the Montreal Convention still applies.
If you suffer death or injury during your flight, you (or your surviving next of kin) are entitled to compensation, however low that might be.
In the far more frequent case of lost, damaged or delayed luggage you can demand up to 1,000 Special Drawing Rights, an artificial "currency" created and controlled by the International Monetary Fund.
You will have to get your written claim in within 7 (damage) or 21 (delay) days.
Looking Out for Number One - Airline Style
Take any budget airline like Ireland's Ryanair - these guys will fly you for a song and a prayer. Or less. Relying on "other business" to cash in. Like selling you food and drinks. Obviously giving away these for free does not fit into the business model. So compensation is likely to be avoided like the plague if at all possible.
Which may lead to dodgy practices. Like shepherding passengers onto a plane that is nowhere near to start.
There might be valid reasons behind this. And there might be valid reasons why you were not offered compensation.
But if in doubt ... complain. First with airline personnel. If that doesn't work, contact the authorities. Airlines can only continue to offer bad service if we, the passengers, stay mute.
Where to Complain
The Commission for Aviation Regulation was designated as the national enforcement body for these regulations - contact them via their comprehensive website. But remember - if your complaint relates to European Regulation EC 261/2004 you must first contact the airline.