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Someone I know booked a return flight on Air Serbia from Vienna to Podgorica (Montenegro) via Belgrade, departing on 6 March 2020 and returning on 14 March 2020. On 10 March 2020, Air Serbia cancelled the return leg from Belgrade to Vienna without explanation; the passenger contacted Air Serbia by phone, who rebooked them on the next available flight, 24 hours later than the original return date. Air Serbia told them on the phone that reasonable transport, meal, and accommodation costs for the unplanned overnight stay in Belgrade would be compensated.

According to Air Serbia's statement of passenger rights*, the EU Regulation 261/2004 on flight compensation is integrated into Serbian law, so we assume that the passenger is entitled not only to the costs for the stay in Belgrade, but also €250 in compensation for the cancelled flight.

The passenger accordingly made a claim for compensation (both the overnight expenses and the €250 cancellation award) using Air Serbia's online form*, including all the relevant travel information and documentation (receipts, etc.). Air Serbia just now rejected the claim as follows:

Thank you for your patience while the claim relating to your journey from BEG to PRG on 14.3.2020 was processed.

After carefully reviewing your claim, I regret to inform you that we are not able to provide compensation in this case. This decision was reached taking into account the specific circumstances of your case, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Please note that the decision is final.

We’re sorry that our service on 14.3.2020 did not meet your expectations and hope that we can look forward to welcoming you on-board an Air Serbia flight in the future.

We are skeptical about this rejection for the following reasons:

  1. On the phone, Air Serbia had already promised compensation at least for the transport, accommodation, and meals in Belgrade.

  2. Air Serbia cancelled the flight before the governments of Serbia and Austria had imposed any restrictions on foreign travel relating to the coronavirus pandemic.

  3. At no time before now had Air Serbia indicated that the cancellation was due to the pandemic.

  4. According to the answer to another Covid-19–related question here (May I get a refund for a flight cancelled because of COVID-19?), "under EU rules you always get a refund".

We would therefore like answers to the following:

  1. Under Serbian or EU law (whichever is applicable in our case), is the passenger in fact entitled to compensation in this case?

  2. If the answer to the previous question is "yes", then can the passenger appeal to the national enforcement body in Austria, given that she bought the ticket and is resident there?


* Note that due to Air Serbia's broken website, you may need to follow that link twice before the correct page appears. It seems that first-time visitors to the website are always redirected to its home page.

  • Could you clarify if the person eventually took the re-booked flight on Air Serbia back to Vienna? Also was the compensation they were claiming for their reasonable expenses (meaning they submitted receipts for hotels, transportation, etc) or did they try to claim EU 261 compensation? – Kina Apr 4 at 15:10
  • @Kina: I've edited the question accordingly. (Yes, they took the rebooked flight, and the compensation claim was for both the reasonable expenses and the €250 cancellation under EU 261.) – Psychonaut Apr 4 at 17:14
  • I don't have an answer for all of your question, but it seems they do owe compensation for expenses, if not the additional EU 261 compensation. The EU clarified EU 261 rights in regards to COVID-19 which you can find here travel.stackexchange.com/questions/155166/… – Kina Apr 4 at 17:42
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The €250 compensation doesn't apply in extraordinary circumstances beyond the airline's control. While it's not certain that this applies, it's highly likely now during Covid-19.

However, extra expenses (accommodation, food) are to be reimbursed, per Article 9 of the EC261 regulation.

So contact them again and mention this (of course, attach the receipts). Tell them that Article 9 of EC261 applies regardless of any extraordinary circumstances.

And if you want to be dead certain if extraordinary cirumstances apply or not (i.e. whether or not the €250 compensation is due), ask a firm such as Claimcompass to investigate it. It costs nothing, and they have sophisticated resources for checking things, but if they find compensation is due, they'll keep 35% of the amount for themselves.

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  • We pressed Air Serbia but they refused to budge, so we appealed to apf, Austria's national enforcement agency for passenger compensation. apf says that EC261 does not apply because our claim concerns a flight entering the EU operated by a non-EU carrier. We would gladly take the complaint to the corresponding compensation enforcement authority in Serbia, if only we could identify it: travel.stackexchange.com/q/156742/7949 – Psychonaut Apr 17 at 10:15
  • @Psychonaut Fill in this form cad.gov.rs/upload/putnici/… and send it to reklamacijeputnika@cad.gov.rs along with all other evidence – Crazydre Apr 17 at 11:03
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This page on the web site of the Civil Aviation Directorate of the Republic of Serbia has a link to an Air Passenger Rights - Complaint Form http://cad.gov.rs/en/strana/16411/passengers. The form is in Serbian and English. The completed form should be submitted to the airline in the first instance. The airline has 60 days to respond after which time you can forward the complaint to the Directorate. I have flown to Serbia many times but have never needed to follow this complaint process.

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  • Nope, not to the airline, as they've already refused. It should be sent to the Directorate at reklamacijeputnika@cad.gov.rs – Crazydre Apr 17 at 12:19

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