These are your rights: fly away, suitcase away, trip gone?

Canceled flights, airport delays: some holidaymakers are worried about their summer trip – and not everyone will have the holiday they want. What then?

Problems with airlines and airports – mainly due to staff shortages – ensure a tense travel summer. While Lufthansa has already sent a letter of apology to passengers, the head of Tui Germany, Stefan Baumert, recently assured: “Despite all the challenges due to staff shortages in the industry, the holidays will go smoothly for the vast majority.”

But what if you’re not in that majority? If your holiday flight was canceled or your suitcase didn’t arrive? We’ve summarized important tips for specific scenarios:

Case 1: The flight was cancelled

In such a case, travelers have a choice: a full refund of the ticket price or rebooking by the airline.

Especially those who travel alone and have booked, for example, a holiday home, will probably insist on the latter – after all, otherwise there is a risk that they will be left with the costs of services booked locally.

According to Stiftung Warentest, you are entitled to replace the transport. If the airline does not offer a replacement flight in time and refuses to book a replacement flight with the tender, you can book it yourself and claim the money after your vacation, the foundation writes. If the replacement flight was more expensive than the canceled flight, resistance from the airline can be expected.

So the tip: First ask the airline to book a replacement flight in the near future before you take action yourself.

If information about the cancellation came less than 14 days before departure, travelers may be entitled to compensation in addition to compensation or replacement of transport – depending on the route of the flight, this varies between 250 and 600 euros.

Claims can be verified with the free Flugärger app from the North Rhine-Westphalia Consumer Center, which is available for iOS and Android, or the browser-based self-help tool for flight problems from the European Consumer Center in Germany.

In the case of organized tours, the organizer is the contact person in case of flight cancellations. You should contact him and ask for a replacement transfer in time, advises Stiftung Warentest. If the new flight is scheduled significantly later than the original, there may be an option to cancel the trip.

But you actually want to go on vacation. Good to know in this case: If you arrive much later, the price of the trip may be reduced.

Case 2: The flight is long delayed

In this case, there may be a right to compensation payments under the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation, which should be checked. This also applies to organized tours.

However: If you receive compensation for the flight problem from the airline and the organizer, you must compensate, according to Stiftung Warentest and explains using a specific example: If you received a refund of 80 euros from the organizer after a cancellation and you still you ask 250 euros from the airline, they should only pay 170 euros.

The EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation applies to all flights departing within the European Union. For flights landing in the EU, it only applies if the airline is based in one of the EU member states.

Case 3: There are delays at the airport

It is recommended to be at the airport on time during peak summer holidays and, in view of possible claims in the event of problems, it is also imperative – airlines usually recommend 2.5 to 3 hours in advance.

But what if check-in and security checks still take so long that the plane finally takes off without the passenger?

Anyone who is stuck in line at the airport and is afraid of missing the plane should notify and document the situation on the spot. For example: taking pictures of the long queues, receiving receipts for purchases at the airport. “Maybe also network with fellow travelers and possibly exchange contact details so we can have witnesses later,” suggests Jan Philipp Stupnanek from the consumer center in North Rhine-Westphalia.

If there are problems at check-in – for example there are not enough counters – for the missed flight, the airline will be responsible. According to the Fairplane passenger rights portal, then the passenger rights regulation applies.

If you miss a flight due to delays at security screening, it is not so easy to claim compensation – the Air Passenger Rights Ordinance, for example, does not mention this case. According to the consumer advice centre, this falls under the responsibility of the federal police.

Potential claims could then only be made against the state. A decision of the Higher Regional Court (OLG) in Frankfurt am Main (Az.: 1 U 220/20) shows that this can sometimes be successful. A prerequisite is that you have documented the problems on site and can demonstrate that you arrived at the security checkpoint on time. In one case, which also had to be decided by the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt, approximately 55 minutes before departure was not “on time” (Az.: 1 U 139/15).

If package travelers get stuck at the airport despite arriving on time and therefore miss or threaten to miss the plane, they should contact their travel agent.

Case 4: Airlines object to compensation

Airlines do not always pay justified compensation without hesitation or make it easy for travelers to exercise their right of choice (refund or rerouting) in case of cancellation.

“Theory and practice are sometimes very different when it comes to claiming rights,” observes consumer advocate Stupnanek.

The tip: Mail and phone calls you exchange with the airline should be kept or documented. This can help when travelers seek outside help.

Whether it is a lawyer, the Public Transport Arbitration Board (SÖP), consumer advocates or commission or fee-for-service portals such as Fairplane, EUclaim, Flightright or Airhelp.

Case 5: The suitcase is gone

The plane leaves, but the suitcase stays. If you land at your holiday destination without luggage, you will have to start working at the airport and fill out a so-called PIR, a Property Irregularity Report, at the airline counter.

In addition, delayed baggage must be reported in writing to the airline within 21 days. If the PIR document is missing or if the deadline is missed, the airline may not have to refund anything, warns the European Consumer Center Germany.

Important for package travelers: The same deadline applies to them, but they must report the loss to the organizer. And they also need the PIR document.

Going without a suitcase at your holiday destination usually also means: no change of clothes. According to consumer advocates, travelers are allowed to buy replacements, if only if they have to do without their luggage for a few hours. However, purchases should be limited to the essentials. Toothbrushes, underwear, swimwear, shirts and pajamas are no problem.

Of course, travelers should keep receipts for replacement purchases. You should also have the baggage tag from check-in ready as proof in such cases.

According to consumer advocates, the maximum liability limit for baggage problems is currently just under €1700 per passenger. In addition to the necessary replacement purchases, airlines must pay for things that are lost or damaged. However, valuables such as jewellery, money or laptops are excluded from liability. They belong in hand luggage.

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