Canceled or delayed flight in Germany: What are your rights?

Canceled flights, delayed departures, monster queues and missing luggage: the start of the summer holidays has gotten off to a bad start in Germany, as airports continue to face crippling understaffing. If your travel plans are disrupted, what are your rights?

Compensation for flight delays and cancellations in Germany

Due to the lack of staff at airlines and airports, many travelers in Germany and throughout Europe experience difficulties for their holidays. The federal government is working on a plan to recruit airport workers overseas to ease the situation, but in the meantime there is still plenty of chaos to expect.

If – like thousands of other people in the Federal Republic – your travel plans are on hold or if you are simply worried about the situation, here is a brief overview of your consumer rights in the event of cancellation, delay and loss of luggage.

Am I entitled to compensation if my flight is canceled or delayed?

Almost all flights departing from airports in EU countries are covered by the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation, which gives passengers the right to compensation in the event of flight cancellation or delay.

If your flight is canceled at short notice, is overbooked or arrives at your destination at least three hours late, you may be entitled to a lump sum compensation of between 250 and 600 euros, but this depends on the circumstances.

You are not entitled to this lump sum compensation if the airline can prove that it was not responsible for the cancellation. This is the case, for example, if an air traffic control order is in place, if there are strikes or bad weather. However, the airline cannot use technical faults in the aircraft or general staff shortages as an exit clause.

What am I entitled to if my flight is delayed?

In principle, if your flight is delayed in Germany, you are entitled to assistance services from the airline, and possibly even compensation or a refund. It depends on the length of the delay and the distance travelled.

Support services

If your flight is at least two hours late, you are entitled to support services from your airline, including free snacks and drinks, two phone calls and two faxes or emails. If you cannot board the flight on the same day, the airline must provide you with hotel accommodation and transportation. This applies if your flight is delayed by at least:

  • Two hours for short trips up to 1,500 kilometers
  • Three hours for medium-haul journeys over 1,500 kilometers within the EU or between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometers if the origin or destination is a non-EU state
  • Four hours for long-distance flights over 3,500 kilometers

Flight delay compensation

If your flight arrives at least three hours late, you may also be entitled to compensation of between 250 and 600 euros, depending on the delay and the duration of the trip. The amounts are:

  • 250 euros for short journeys
  • 400 euros for medium-haul journeys
  • 600 euros for long distance flights

The airline can reduce this payment by half if the flight was delayed by less than three hours on medium-haul routes and four hours on long-haul routes.

Complete refund

If your flight is at least five hours late, you can cancel your connection and request a full refund of the fare (including taxes and fees). This means that you do not board the flight and either cancel the trip completely or try to book another flight and claim the reimbursement of the additional costs as compensation. If you choose this option, however, you are not entitled to a fixed compensation.

What are my rights if my flight is canceled in Germany?

If your flight is cancelled, the airline is required to rebook you on another connection as soon as possible or, if seats are available, at a time convenient for you. Alternative transport can sometimes also be offered with another means of transport such as train, bus or boat. If you do not wish to board the alternative flight, the airline must refund the full fare.

If you incur additional costs as a result of the cancellation – for example, if you have to pay extra for a replacement flight, or if you have paid for hotel rooms or ferry transfers that you can no longer use , you can claim compensation from the Airline.

Airline support services

If the cancellation results in a longer wait at the airport, the airline must provide you with free snacks and drinks and allow you to make two phone calls or send two faxes or emails. If you cannot board a flight on the same day, the airline must accommodate you in a hotel and provide transportation.

Compensation in the event of flight cancellation

In addition to this, you may be entitled to additional lump sum compensation. It depends on when you were notified of the cancellation and whether the airline offered you an alternative flight at a similar time to your original booking:

  • If you are informed at least 14 days before departureyou are not entitled to compensation.
  • If you are notified 13 to 7 days before departureand the airline offers you an alternative connection that departs no more than two hours earlier and lands no more than four hours later than your original flight, you are not entitled to compensation.
  • If you are notified 13 to 7 days before departureand no suitable alternative flight is offered, you may be entitled to a payment of between €250 (for short journeys) and €600 (for long-haul flights).
  • If you are informed less than seven days before departureand the airline offers you an alternative connection enabling you to reach your final destination within the hour following the time initially scheduled, you are not entitled to compensation.
  • If you are informed less than seven days before departure, and no suitable alternative flight is offered, or your journey times are significantly different, you may be entitled to a payment of between EUR 250 (for short journeys) and EUR 600 (for long-haul flights ). However, this may be reduced if you reach your final destination within four hours of the scheduled time.

What happens if flight times change?

Your rights vis-à-vis a change in flight schedules depend on whether your scheduled departure has been brought forward or delayed.

If your flight time is advanced

The European Court of Justice has ruled that advancing the departure time of a flight by more than one hour counts as a cancellation, as it causes serious inconvenience to passengers, and therefore claims in this case can be handled as above.

If the departure time is postponed

When it comes to delayed flight times, things are less clear. The court did not set a specific deadline, but in one case a two-hour, 50-minute postponement was agreed as a delay, not a cancellation. Depending on the length of the delay, you may be entitled to compensation as set out above.

What are my rights if I miss my flight due to long security lines?

If long waits at the security check result in a delay and mean you miss your flight, complaints should be made to the German Federal Police rather than your airline.

What if delays at check-in cause me to miss my flight?

However, if there are long queues at check-in that cause you to miss your flight, the airline is responsible and you may be entitled to compensation. The prerequisite for making a claim is that you have arrived at the airport on time.

What are my rights if my baggage is lost, delayed or damaged?

If your baggage is missing, damaged or delayed, the airline and, where applicable, the tour operators must be informed immediately. You can usually claim compensation of up to 1,400 euros for any item in your suitcase.

If your suitcase does not arrive at its destination, you can buy the essentials (eg clothes and toiletries) and charge the costs to the airline. Be sure to keep your receipts.

Get advice on your rights

If your German skills are sufficient, you can use the “Flugärger App” developed by the German Consumer Advice Centres, which will examine your situation and advise you whether you are entitled to compensation.

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