Denied boarding? Airline cannot claim extraordinary circumstances and should always pay compensation

Under Regulation 261/2004 travelers are entitled to damage compensation in case of delay or cancellation of their flight, but also in case of denied boarding due to, for instance, overbooking.

A interesting question raised by one of our international clients earlier this week was to know if airlines can also invoke “extraordinary circumstances” in case of denied boarding, as they can in case of delay or cancellation.  In those last two cases, airlines do not have to pay damage compensations if the reason for the delay  was beyond their control and cannot be considered to be “inherent to the normal practice of the airline industry”.

Always entitled to compensation

The answer to our client’s question is simple and straightforward: No the airline cannot hide behind extraordinary circumstances to escape damage compensation.  Article 4 of the Regulation provides that in case of denied boarding, the airline should provide for compensation (article 7) and for assistance according to article 8 and 9. The Regulation does NOT provide for an exception in case of “extraordinary circumstances”.  Denied boarding thus always gives rise to compensation and/or assistance, even when there are extraordinary circumstances. Important here is the statement of the airline. If the airline would rely on cancellation, that’s of course a different story.

In other words, travelers who face themselves denied boarding due to overbooking or any other circumstance beyond their own fault (own fault would be e.g. showing up at the gate drunk or intoxicated), are always entitled to a 250, 400 or 600 euro damage compensation as foreseen in article 7 of the Regulation.

Boarding denied, flight delayed or cancelled?

Contact us through our online form available here.