Do the rules of EU 261 apply to all passengers equally?

When Austrian Airlines cancels Mary Kopacz’s flight from Vienna to Frankfurt — and she and her husband miss their connection to Denver — she asks us the enduring question: Did the airline do everything it could?

Although Austrian Airlines put them in a hotel overnight and rescheduled them on a flight the following day, Kopacz asks if they’re “due any compensation for the canceled flight and 24-hour delay?”

Kopacz filed a claim on Austrian Airlines’ website, but after more than three weeks, they received nothing more than a standard acknowledgment.

EU 261 is a regulation that establishes rules for help and compensation that some airlines must give to passengers on certain flights which are delayed or canceled. Because the canceled flight originated in a European Union country, the regulation is applicable. EU 261 is a complex rule, and understanding how it applies to canceled flights or long delays requires a careful reading of the regulation. Answers to frequently asked questions about EU 261 are on our website.

Filling out the compensation form on the Austrian Airlines website should be sufficient for the airline to process Kopacz’s claim. Email is a great way to communicate with the airline about the claim, because it creates an easily maintainable paper trail. Fortunately, Kopacz did both, and she used email to follow up with Austrian Airlines about the status of her claim. Other than a canned acknowledgment, it just didn’t respond.

After several weeks passed without any meaningful response, Kopacz contacted our advocates for help. Before getting in touch with us, she could have posted her question to our help forums. Our help forums are staffed by travel industry experts and they may have had helpful suggestions about how to address this issue with the airline. She also could have tried escalating her complaint by contacting company executives who may have intervened on her behalf. We list executive contact information for Austrian Airlines on our website.

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Our advocates reached out to Austrian Airlines on Kopacz’s behalf — and they also didn’t receive a response. The European Commission maintains a list of National Enforcement Bodies on its website. Our advocates recommended that Kopacz continue to pursue the compensation to which she may be entitled by filing a complaint with the National Enforcement Body that applies to Austria. It’s important that passengers know their rights, and how to pursue them.

We hope that Kopacz will continue her pursuit of compensation — but because we weren’t able to assist her with her claim, we have to file this under Case Dismissed.

Diane Perera

Diane and her family love to travel, and they do so as much as they can. Having experienced the downside of travel, and having learned so much from, led Diane to become an advocate and to help fight the good fight. Read more of Diane's articles here.

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