Airlines must now get in touch directly with all passengers if a flight is cancelled in a bid to help them claim any due compensation, the EU has ruled.

In a landmark European Court of Justice ruling this month, any carrier deciding to cancel an advance scheduled flight is liable to pay compensation if it fails to tell affected travellers at least two weeks before the original departure date.

Previously, some airlines who told passengers of cancellations - usually by email - argued they had only to contact the party who booked the flight.

This was not a problem for passengers who went direct but those who booked via a travel agent often ended up being told out about the absent flight less than two weeks before the flight date.

Unable to claim

Typically, the delay would be down to tardy administration at the travel agent or its unfamiliarity with the rules. This then meant the passenger couldn't claim compensation for being told less than two weeks before departure because the airline could prove it had sent a cancellation alert to the agent on time.

Now the EU ruling, in the case of Krijgsman v SLM, could lead a number of claims because passengers previously caught out by this can now go back six years and make a compensation claim.

The court judgement

The passenger in question booked a return flight from Amsterdam Schiphol to Surinam scheduled to depart on 14 November 2014. On 9 October, the airline SLM told the travel agency the flight was cancelled. The customer wasn’t told this by the travel agency until 4 November.

The passenger applied for €600 in due compensation from the airline but was refused because the airline argued they’d informed the travel agent on 9 October, well before the two week limit.

However, the travel agent refused to accept any liability because it wasn’t responsible for changes to flight schedules - and said the responsibility was with the airline who had the passenger’s email address which was sent in the booking file.

The judgement, which is binding on other courts, found that under the regulation it was the airline’s responsibility to prove it had told the passengers about the cancellation and to prove the period in which it did so.

What are my rights if my flight is cancelled?

If your flight is cancelled you will always be entitled to an alternative flight or refund - no matter when it is cancelled (as long as it's from an EU airport or landing at an EU airport on an EU airline).

You could also be entitled to compensation if the cancellation is the airline's fault (eg they didn't have enough staff) and it's within 14 days of your flight. See our Flight Cancellations guide for more information.

Check our 60 second guide on what to do if airline changes your flight more than 14 days in advance.

Cancelled flight? Airlines must now tell you DIRECTLY
Cancelled flight? Airlines must now tell you DIRECTLY

What does the regulator say?

A CAA spokesperson said: “In the event a flight is cancelled or delayed, airlines are legally required to provide a number of important rights to passengers and we will not hesitate to take action where we see evidence of airlines failing to comply with the law.

“This judgement re-enforces the rights of air passengers to receive a minimum level of compensation, should their flight be cancelled within two weeks of their departure date, and we expect airlines to take note of this."

The CAA added that consumers can resubmit their claim to the airline and that it should be considered in line with the recent judgment, unless:

  • The consumer has already taken their complaint to court, and
  • It falls outside the six-year time limit.

How do I claim?

Claims for passenger compensation should be made to the airlines in the first instance. We've got a full step-by-step in our Flight Cancellation guide, plus a free tool to help you claim.

If you feel you were wrongly refused in the past six years (and haven't already taken the case to court) resubmit your complaint to the airline, citing this new ruling.