/ The ClaimCompass Blog

"Extraordinary Circumstances": When Are You Not Entitled to Compensation?

You EU flight was disrupted? It sucks. But rejoice: the Regulation (EC) 2001/2004 states that you may be eligible to up to 600€ in compensation for your troubles!

Except if the disruption (flight delay or cancellation) was caused by "extraordinary circumstances".

Quick recap of what the EU Regulation is about

All of us, in our capacity as flight passengers, traveling from EU based airports or arriving within those borders, on a carrier registered therewithin, including Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, fall under the protection of the 261/2004 European Regulation, be those companies low-budget or otherwise.

In line with the governing principle, any passenger who’s fallen victim to the aforementioned scenarios is in fact within their full rights to seek compensation, but as we can all imagine air travel providers are anything but queuing up to spread this valuable insight, even if so bound by law.

Extraordinary circumstances waive the obligation for the airline to pay your compensation

There are in fact certain cases where airlines can rightfully refuse the compensation we may think are entitled to, but what exactly are those situations? To be able to better understand and apply our rights as customers within the air travel industry, it is important to introduce the concept of “extraordinary circumstances”.

Extraordinary circumstances allow for the distinguishing between disruptions resultant from the airline’s malpractices and such derived from causes outside of their reach. As such, they play a central role in the dynamic of air travel compensation.

As the term has become a popular way for airlines to distance themselves from any accountability for passenger inconvenience, caused by flight schedule disruptions, it is important to know when the circumstances are in fact – extraordinary.

So what exactly counts as extraordinary

There are several categories that fall under that dome and deem providers as not guilty:

  • Political circumstances such as warfare and civil unrest scenarios that may handicap the flight
  • Heavy rains, snow, storms and other adverse weather conditions jeopardizing safety
  • Industrial action in the form of airline and ground staff related strikes causing delays and disruptions
  • Illness: Related to crew members and / or passengers

Situations to look out for: NOT extraordinary circumstances

On the opposing spectrum, some reasons commonly sold as extraordinary that don’t actually fall under that category may be:

  • Poor weather conditions affecting a previous flight resulting in knock-on effects on your own don't actually apply
  • Technical faults such as aircraft maintenance delays caused by the airline often conveyed as extraordinary or failure to prepare the necessary flight documentation

These are the main reasons for delays that airlines claim are "extraordinary circumstances" in order to avoid paying the due compensation to their customers. In fact, these do not exempt them from paying: courts of justice throughout Europe have ruled that:

  • The extraordinary circumstances must apply to the flight in question

Let's imagine this scenario: thunderstorms caused an aircraft to depart and arrive at destination late. This plane was supposed to be used for another flight right after landing at destination. Because of the delay of the first flight, caused by extraordinary circumstances, the second flight will depart late.

Airlines often attribute the delay of the second flight to extraordinary circumstances. But if the weather on the itinerary of the second flight was good enough to operate it, European courts have ruled that it is the responsibility of the airline to provide an aircraft.

In short: extraordinary circumstances can only be invoked when applied to one flight specifically, not to the previous rotation of the aircraft.

If this happened to you, you may be eligible to compensation.

  • Technical reasons and operational issues are NOT extraordinary circumstances

Airlines are responsible for the maintenance of their aircrafts. Should a technical issue be noticed before take-off, the airline must fix the problem before taking off (obviously).

In the eventuality that the delay at destination is over 3h, the customers on this flight, disrupted because of a technical problem, are entitled to compensation under the EU Regulation.

Other reasons for flight disruptions

There are other situations that don’t classify as extraordinary that can be very case-sensitive. If you’ve previously been denied boarding access or have had your flight delayed or canceled there is a very good chance you may be owed compensation.

Check out this post on the most common causes for delayed flights and this one on uncommon events to learn more about the reasons why your flight me be delayed and if you can hope to claim some money from the airline with success.

Final Words on Extraordinary Circumstances

Without a good understanding of the European Regulation and the most recent rulings on the matter of flight compensation, it might be hard to determine whether circumstances for your disrupted flight are extraordinary or not.

Airlines take advantage of the lack of awareness of their passengers regarding such issues to avoid paying them their due compensation by invoking extraordinary circumstances in situations that were actually their responsibility.

That's why claiming compensation on your own can be tricky and not have the expected outcome.

Our Compensation Calculator allows you to easily estimate the potential value of you claim. If you decide to claim with ClaimCompass, our experts will handle your claim for you.

If you are unsure of whether your case has grounds or falls under the “extraordinary circumstances” spectrum, then do not hesitate to contact us with details of your claim and we’ll be more than happy to advise you as to the best course of action!

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