I have been notified a little less than six days before my originally scheduled departure time, about a schedule change resulting in my flight departing four days later. The flight numbers are the same, and the airline is refusing compensation in accordance with EU261 as they state that this situation does not regard a cancellation. The airline has stated that the reschedule was done because of commercial reasons (so, no extraordinary circumstances).

The airline offered me a refund, but that seems ridiculous to me - to me it seems simply unethical and unfair to reschedule a flight with such an extreme difference (96 hours) out of commercial reasons, and not compensate passengers, who booked unrefundable hotel stays and such, accordingly. Am I right that I am in this case entitled to EU261 compensation?

Is anyone aware of any jurisprudence?

  • when did that happend? was this to covid realted. – N Randhawa Aug 1 '20 at 22:15
  • Hi! It might only be COVID related as demand for the flight has decreased, which resulted in them postponing the flight for four days (for commercial reasons, as they confirmed). It is not directly COVID related as there were no restrictions imposed on the flight (like on arrival/departure airport, additional governmental rulings and such). I got the notice on the 30th of July, and my original flight was on the 5th (now rescheduled to the 9th), but I thought this is generally an interesting question as the airline is simply stating: "we didn't cancel, so no compensation", a kind if loophole? – Damiaan Reijnaers Aug 1 '20 at 22:42
  • @DamiaanReijnaers what airline, and what was the departure airport? – Moo Aug 2 '20 at 0:08
  • Regarding expenses for hotels etc, this is why you should always have travel insurance... – Moo Aug 2 '20 at 0:09
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    Wizz Air. Departure airport is VIE, destination airport is TIA. I have very extensive travel insurance, Moo, don't worry - thank you for the advice though. I am just wondering (it's a personal problem indeed now, but I think it is generally an interesting question because of airline's defense) whether a rescheduling to four days later with only six days notice is eligible for EU261 compensation (in this case, the size of EUR 250). I understand airlines would (almost) never have to pay damage like unrefundable hotel costs, but I can imagine that they would need to pay compensation under EU261. – Damiaan Reijnaers Aug 2 '20 at 9:50

Based on the comments, the airline you were booked to travel with is Wizz Air, which is an EU based airline so EU261 rules do apply.

Whether the airline likes to style this as a cancellation and rebooking, or as a delay to the original flight, it does not matter - both result in the same level of compensation, being 250 Euros. For a cancellation, you were not notified more than 14 days prior, and for a delay you definitely arrived at your destination more than 3 hours late - either of these criteria result in EU261 compensation rules bring triggered.

If you were informed of the cancellation less than 14 days prior to the scheduled departure date, you have a right to compensation. The airline has the obligation to prove if and when you were personally informed that the flight was cancelled. If this is not the case you can contact your national authority for further assistance.

EU261 air passenger rights guidance on cancellations.

If you arrived at your final destination with a delay of more than 3 hours, you are entitled to compensation, unless the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances. The airline has to prove this by providing, for example, extracts from logbooks or incident reports. The air carrier should give this evidence to the relevant national enforcement body as well as to the passengers concerned in line with national provisions on access to documents.

EU261 air passenger rights guidance on delays.

The issue here is collecting it - airlines are bleeding cash right now and very few are handing over EU261 compensation. There may be a legal claim to be had, but unless the airline rolls over for you, its going to be a hard slog. You can complain to a relevant aviation body in either Wizz Airs home country, the origin airports country ir the destination airports country and see where that gets you, or you can take legal action yourself.

Wizz Air is definitely in the wrong here with regard to denying compensation - EU261 rules are all about preventing airlines from doing precisely what Wizz Air are attempting to do in your question...

  • (+1) IIRC, the compensation for delays longer than 3 hours stems from a court case, it could be useful to find it (don't have the reference at hand, unfortunately). That's presumably what the Commission's advice is based on since it does not obviously follow from the text of the regulation, as far as I can tell. – Relaxed Aug 3 '20 at 10:18
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    @Relaxed it is actually in the text, but doesnt tie up exactly with the guidance - eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32004R0261 – Moo Aug 3 '20 at 10:29

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