Speaking today following the closure of airspace and airports in more than 8 EU counties including Ireland, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, due the volcanic eruption in Iceland, European Commission Vice President Siim Kallas responsible for Transport said:
"The volcanic ash cloud is a very significant threat to air safety. National authorities are required to take decisions to ensure safety under international law, such as closure of airspace and airports, without discrimination between airlines.
In this case, the airports and those responsible for air traffic control have taken very swift and appropriate action to safeguard the public. And there is excellent co-ordination and co-operation at European level, notably within Eurocontrol.
But even in exceptional circumstances EU passenger rights continue to apply and air travellers should speak up to claim their rights."
With regard to passenger rights, the Vice President added:
"This is a situation which is causing immense difficulties for passengers travelling throughout Europe. It can be considered a very exceptional circumstance. Nevertheless, it is important to remind passengers and airlines that EU passenger rights do apply in this situation":
- the right to receive information from airlines (e.g. on your rights, on the situation as it evolves, cancellations and length of delays)
- the right to care (refreshments, meals, accommodation as appropriate)
- the right to chose between reimbursement of fares or be re-routed to final destination
In an exceptional circumstance such as this, passengers are not however entitled to additional financial compensation that would be the case where delays or cancellations are the fault of the airline.
These rights are established by the EU Directive on air passenger rights (Regulation 261/2004)
For more information on your rights see:
The EU Top12 Recommendations for Passengers
Passengers are advised to contact their airlines, and in case of problems the national enforcement bodies (see list below)