Regulation [EC] 261/2004 introduced new rules on compensation and assistance for air passengers who are denied boarding, suffer cancellations, long delays or involuntary downgrading.

The Regulation requires airlines to provide passengers with assistance such as accommodation, refreshments, meals and communication facilities. If necessary, re-routing and refunds should be offered. Compensation can be as high as €600 per passenger.

Air companies are also required to inform passengers pro-actively about their rights under the Regulation. Thus, in the case of delays above 5 hours, travellers can obtain a refund if they decide not to travel. If they are denied boarding or their flight is cancelled, passengers are allowed to choose to continue the trip or receive a refund. Beyond this, they are entitled to financial compensation under certain circumstances.

The Regulation applies to all worldwide airlines when departure takes place within the EU and, in the case of flights from a third country to a destination within the EU, only to Community carriers.

Further legislation requires that passengers should be informed in advance of the airline that operates their flights. More over, unsafe airlines are now banned from operating in European airspace. Finally, airlines can be held liable for damages, injuries and death, and passengers have the right to receive accurate information on their package holidays and protection from insolvent organisers.

Source: Special Eurobarometer - Air Passenger Rights