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For what flights does the EU air passenger rights regulation apply? Specifically, if my flight from the US to Europe is delayed or cancelled, can I demand to be booked on the next flight to the same destination, if the flight is operated by a European based airline, even if the only available seats are in a better class (for example only business class seats are available and I booked in economy)?

This excellent answer answers the question about which airlines are covered, while this covers, without a definite answer, whether they need to book you on any airline or just a code-sharing airline. The question of the class remains for me unsolved (as well as the question regarding whether they need to rebook you on any airline regardless of code-sharing).

Does the EU air passenger rights regulation require the airline to book you in the same class, or, in order to book you on the first available flight, can you demand to be booked in a higher passenger class if your class of service is completely booked?

I am an EU citizen, if this makes any difference.

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    If it’s operated by an EU airline, then EU261 applies. Interesting question about the class of travel. I’m pretty sure they will book you on the next flight where any seat is available, but depending on your fare and status they may upgrade someone else rather than fly you in a higher class. – jcaron Aug 25 '18 at 21:52
  • @jcaron I am wondering what exactly the EU passenger rights regulation dictates. I have edited my question as well. – user Aug 25 '18 at 22:02
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    You can read the regulation to know what it says. But a lot of the rules for not-so-obvious cases have been added via case law, and that is still evolving (though often in favour of passengers). – jcaron Aug 25 '18 at 22:53
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The regulation says:

Right to reimbursement or re-routing

...

(b) re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity; or

(c) re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at a later date at the passenger's convenience, subject to availability of seats.

IANAL, but "comparable transport conditions" does not include higher classes (for me), so if no economy seats are available on the next flight, then it would still be the earliest opportunity under comparable transport conditions to rebook you on a later flight.

  • It does say "comparable" rather than Identical, so you have more of a case for jumping from e.g. Economy to Premium Economy than all the way from coach to first. I'm not aware of any case law anywhere which has actually tested this yet. – origimbo Aug 25 '18 at 23:01
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    @user The way I read is that they MUST offer you a seat on the next available flight with comparable transport conditions but passengers may instead request a different, later flight but airlines are only obliged to honor this request if there are seats with comparable transport conditions. – Eric Aug 26 '18 at 1:45
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    @Eric: Yes, c is clearly intended for cases where a passenger does not like the airline's offer and wants to postpone to a later date or time. That might be useful under certain circumstances where the passenger's flight is time sensitive but can be rescheduled. – Kevin Aug 26 '18 at 1:56
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    Uh, comparable transport conditions could be interpreted as “at least comparable“. Those are passenger rights after all, not airline rights (whose interests would make it “at most comparable“. It's a good answer, but for a definite one we'd need case law. – DonQuiKong Aug 26 '18 at 7:24
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    @alephzero: and any half-decent lawyer would destroy that lawyer, by showing with witnesses and examples how the world "comparable" is widely used. Even in physics and math the word is used as above and not as the literal meaning suggests. – Martin Argerami Aug 26 '18 at 13:54

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