COVID-19: Commission guidelines on EU passenger rights

by Aurelia Chaise

In light of mass cancellations and delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission is reassuring EU passenger rights are protected.

Travel restrictions, lock-downs and quarantine zones have made transport among the most severely affected sectors of the COVID-19 pandemic. To help address this stressful and unprecedented situation, the European Commission issued guidelines on EU passenger rights regulations. 

Published on 18 March in the form of a 10-page Communication Notice, the aim is to clarify how certain provisions of the EU passenger legislation apply, notably with respect to cancellations and delays.

“In light of the mass cancellations and delays passengers and transport operators face due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission wants to provide legal certainty on how to apply EU passenger rights,” Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean was quoted as saying in a press release. “In case of cancellations the transport provider must reimburse or re-route the passengers. If passengers themselves decide to cancel their journeys, reimbursement of the ticket depends on its type, and companies may offer vouchers for subsequent use.”


When travelling by rail, air, coach or ship

By rail

Trains have been considerably delayed. In such cases, passengers have the choice between reimbursement of the ticket price, or to continue the journey or rerouting.

When the delay exceeds 60 minutes, passengers have the right to receive meals and refreshments. Accommodation and/or transport to the railway station can also be provided, if the train is blocked on the track.

Rail passengers’ rights and obligations are detailed in the Regulation (EC) No 1371/2007.


By air

In case of a cancellation, Article 5 of the Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 obliges the operating air carrier to offer the passengers the following choices:

  • reimbursement (refund);
  • re-routing at the earliest opportunity;
  • re-routing at a later date at the passenger's convenience.

Also, passengers affected by a flight cancellation should be provided with meals and refreshments, free of charge by the operating air carrier. Passengers can also benefit from hotel accommodation if necessary, with transport to the place of accommodation.


By coach

Passengers have the right to be informed about delays and/or uncertainties related to their journey.  In such cases, they should be able to choose between continuation of the journey / re-routing or reimbursement.

The rights of passengers in bus and coach transport are explained in EU Regulation 181/2011.


By ship

As described in EU Regulation 1177/2010, in case a ship has at least 90 minutes of delay, passengers have two possibilities:

  • re-routing
  • reimbursement of the ticket price and, where relevant, a return service free of charge to the first point of departure.

Depending on the delay, passengers may be entitled to free snacks, meals or refreshments, as well as accommodation. As regards compensation, the minimum level must be 25 % of the ticket price for varying delays.


More information

Many Member States have announced restrictions to transport – a full list by country is available online. This list is updated regularly, as information becomes available. Find it here.

“Your Passenger Rights” app is available for free download to your smartphone. Check it out here.

For all the latest news about EU actions and statistics, as well as useful information and related links, click here.


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