AA Legal Documents
Law guide

Denied boarding

Contents

Like delay and cancellation, denial of boarding is also dealt with by EU Regulation. The treatment of delay by an airline in terms of EU law is similar to that of cancellation by an airline. The entitlement that applies under EU law to the denial of boarding by airlines, applies in the following instances:

  • when flying from an EU airport; or
  • when flying to an EU airport, from an airport outside of the EU on an EU carrier.

The entitlement that is due to you will depend on whether the denial of boarding was against your will or whether you volunteered.

If your flight doesn't fall within the above description, see our 'Cancellation and delay outside the application of EU law' section.

If you volunteered to be denied boarding

If you have volunteered to surrender your reservation on an overbooked flight, this must be in exchange for benefits, under conditions to be agreed between you and the carrier. This might be in the form of vouchers.

In addition you are entitled to:

A refund within seven days of the full price you paid for your ticket for the part or parts of your journey not made (and for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to your original travel plan) and a return flight to the departure airport as soon as possible.

or

Re-routing to your final destination as soon as possible or, if you agree, at a later date. (If the airline flies you to another airport in your destination city, then they must pay for the transfer to the airport you were booked for, or to another close-by point of your choice.)

If you were denied boarding against your will

Overbooked flights and Denied Boarding Compensation

'Overbooking' is when airlines take more reservations for a flight than there are seats on the plane. This is not illegal. Airlines do it deliberately because they usually expect some of the passengers not to turn up. Usually there are no problems, but occasionally too many people turn up for a flight, so some of them are not allowed to board the flight (or "bumped").

If you are "bumped" off a flight, the airline must pay you compensation. This is called Denied Boarding Compensation (or 'DBC'). The rules for payment of DBC are set out in an EC Regulation (EC Council Regulation 261/2004).

This Regulation says that you will be entitled to compensation provided you can satisfy three conditions. These are:

  • You must have a valid ticket
  • You must have a confirmed reservation
  • You must have checked in by the deadline given to you by the airline
If you can meet these conditions, the airline must compensate you in three ways:

First, it must give you the choice of:

  • A refund, if you decide not to travel, within seven days, of the parts of the tickets not used. If it is a connecting flight and you have already made part of the journey and do not want to continue with it, reimbursement of the total price of the ticket (including parts of the journey not made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to your original travel plan) within seven days, and a free flight back to point of departure.
or

  • Re-routing to your final destination as soon as possible or, if you agree, at a later date. (If the airline flies you to another airport in your destination city, then they must pay for the transfer to the airport you were booked for or to another close-by point of your choice.)
You are not entitled to reimbursement of any other expenses related to your trip such as hotel and transfer costs.

Secondly, it must also pay you compensation in cash, cheque or bank transfer. (You can accept vouchers instead of cash if you want to, but you don't have to). The minimum amount the airline must give you is set out in the Regulation. The amount you should get depends on the length of your flight and on how late you are getting to your final destination. You should be able to work out the amount you are due from this table:

Length of journeyDelay to destinationCompensation

Up to 1500km

Up to 2 hours

€125

Up to 1500km

More than 2 hours

€250

1500km to 3500km

Up to 3 hours

€200

1500km to 3500km

More than 3 hours

€400

More than 3500km

Up to 4 hours

€300

More than 3500km

More than 4 hours

€600

(Compensation should be paid in local currency.)

Thirdly, it must pay for incidental expenses. These are specified in the Regulation as:

  • Two telephone calls or emails, telexes or faxes
  • Meals and refreshments. (The Regulation says these must be provided 'in reasonable relation to the waiting time'.)
  • Hotel accommodation if you are delayed overnight
For more information on flights which were simply delayed without any denial of boarding, see our 'Delay in terms of EU Regulations' and 'Cancellation and delay outside the application of EU law' sections.