Know your (travel) rights: flight interruptions in Europe

A little information is a dangerous thing.

In October 2010, my friend T and I went to Morocco. Our route took us from Halifax to Montreal, where we connected to an Air France flight to Paris, and eventually, to Casablanca. It was action-packed until we got to Paris, where we were delayed for several hours. Knowing this to be a typical side-effect of travel, we took it in stride and spent our delay getting to know the over-crowded international departures terminal at Charles de Gaulle airport. After an hour or so, the gate staff made an announcement that food vouchers were available as a small token of their appreciation while we were delayed. We promptly collected our vouchers and bought out the the joint, up to 6€ each. When we returned to Canada, we also received a 1,500 extra frequent flier miles for the Air France-KLM loyalty program.

Casablanca Morocco airport cat
Pardonnez-moi, monsieur, where do I get a food voucher?**

After that experience, we gladly shared out positive Air France encounter. Anyone who has traveled in Canada and the United States would appreciate the novelty of receiving token compensation for the inconvenience. To this day, I still appreciate the gesture, yet, I cannot help feeling other feelings.

Like I was bamboozled.

In the European Union, air passengers have a suite of rights worth getting to know better, also known as Regulation 261/2004. Based on the distance you are travelling and the length of your delay, you may be entitled to sweet, sweet compensation, ranging from 250€ to 600€ and beyond. created a handy chart for quick reference. I’ve since done a fair amount of reading on this, and it seems we missed out on the opportunity to collect 400€ each in compensation, and possibly forfeited this right by accepting the meal vouchers.

Of course, there are a lot of conditions and definitions that are subject to interpretation, but having a basic understanding of your rights as a passenger can go a long way.

Learn it, memorize it, live it, and don’t be afraid to use it.

For what it’s worth, we did get some benefit out of this regulation, but for an entirely different reason. We got some compensation when our bags were “misplaced” somewhere between France and Morocco, which is whole other story.

**This cat is not, in fact, an Air France employee, he lives at Casablanca’s Mohamed V Airport. You read that right.

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