Cancellations and delays – your rights as an air passenger

Nov 19, 2021.

Your next holiday is booked. You can hardly wait to pack your bags and go. But then your airline tells you that your flight is delayed or has been cancelled. What a disappointment. What can you do now?

We understand your disappointment. But no need to worry, we have got you covered. Our Fortuna Legal Protection Insurance and our partner will help you get what is rightfully yours.


What are your rights in the event of a flight cancellation or delay?


The Air Passenger Rights Regulation is particularly important here, specifically EU Regulation 261/2004/EC. As an air passenger, it protects you from a variety of flight disruptions.


Flight cancellation

In the event of a flight cancellation, you are entitled to a flat rate of compensation. The compensation depends on the distance of the flight:

  • €250 for a flight distance of less than 1,500 km
  • €400 for a flight distance of between 1,500 km and 3,500 km
  • €600 for a flight distance of more than 3,500 km


Flight delay

Under the Regulation, you are generally not entitled to any such compensation for a flight delay. But the European Court of Justice has decided that a flight that arrives at least three hours too late is equivalent to a flight cancellation. This means that you are entitled to compensation for delays of three hours or more. In the case of flights with a layover, the time of arrival at the destination airport applies.


However, judgements of the European Court of Justice are not binding for Switzerland. Therefore, at least one of the airports involved must be located in the EU.


Which flights are affected by the Regulation?

  • All flights that depart from the EU, Switzerland, Norway or Iceland.
  • All flights that arrive in the EU, Switzerland, Norway or Iceland and are operated by an airline from one of these countries.

In which cases does the airline not have to pay you any compensation?


Exceptional circumstances

In certain cases, air passengers are not entitled to any compensation. This would be the case if the flight cancellation or delay were attributable to a cause beyond the control of the airline i.e. if extraordinary circumstances were at play. This might be:

  • Storms or natural catastrophes
  • Strikes (on a case-by-case basis)
  • Decisions by air traffic control or the airport
  • War and terror
  • Pandemic restrictions
  • Technical problems (depending on the individual case; e.g. bird strike or damage caused by the manufacturer)


Good to know: the following are not classed as extraordinary circumstances:

  • Operational reasons (e.g. poor planning by the airline)
  • Technical problems with the aircraft (e.g. with the hydraulics or landing gear, or collision with a stairway vehicle)
  • Sick employees (depending on the individual case)


«Holidays are meant to be a time for relaxation. To ensure a stress-free start and end to your holiday, it makes sense to know about your rights and the platform »


Benjamin Wegmüller, Senior Lawyer at Fortuna Legal Protection

Benjamin Wegmüller has been part of Fortuna for four years. He has been managing the everyday business of the “First Touch Customer Experience” team at the Adliswil site (Zurich) as a supervisor for several years.