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Why European Airlines Will Pay Passengers For Late Flights

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Is your airline trying to make up for your ridiculously late flight by giving you free candy? Don't let them get away with it. Passengers are often placated with vouchers for a free meal or a refreshment when they are legally entitled to more significant reimbursement.

Last week, The European Court of Justice ruled that people who fly in the European Union are entitled to money (as much as 600 Euros or $775 US) if a flight is more than three hours late, The Guardian reported.

Europe's highest court upheld a 2009 decision which ruled that passengers flying within the EU who experience significant flight delays have the same rights to compensation as passengers whose flights are cancelled. This law paves the way for passengers to claim millions in compensation.

"The Court of Justice has confirmed its previous ruling that passengers whose flights have been delayed for a long time may be compensated," the court said. Carriers would be exempt if delays were due to "extraordinary circumstances" but it did not outline what this might be. Bad weather will allow airlines sidestep responsibility, but the court said many cases of industrial action were not valid excuses.

The judgment clarifies a confusing area in the flight delay regulation and opens up airlines to potentially millions in claims. The Civil Aviation Authority told the Guardian that the verdict provides "much needed clarity."

I know the founder of EUCLAIM whose attorneys fought for this in court. They've had a really tough road, but they won rights for the flying public that our congress and DOT would not even consider.

Delayed European Flight? Know Your Rights

As the holidays approach, it's important to be familiar with passenger rights in your arrival and departure destinations before heading to the airport during the busiest travel season of the year.

For more information on your rights as a flyer, read your airline's contract of carriage. And even if, for whatever reason, you aren't legally eligible to receive compensation for a flight delay or cancellation, you should still make a call to your airline. Carriers will sometimes provide lodging, transportation, or meal vouchers to stranded flyers. You often just have to ask.

Thanks to the EU Court of Justice, passengers will continue to receive compensation if their European travel plans are upended.

Laws protecting passengers in the U.S. are different from those in Europe. In Europe, air passengers have more rights and are compensated by law for overbookings, cancellations or flight delays. In the US, we have DOT rules to compensate us for a canceled flight, but they can be overturned by a new president.

FlyersRights is working to turn the Passenger Bill of Rights rule into federal law, which is permanent.