Travelling to the European Union? Know your rights as passengers of airlines, rail and shipping lines

(Posted 16th September 2022)

When traveling to Europe, passengers, in fact passengers from all over the world, have rights in cases of departure delays or cancellations, which are enshrined by the European Union.

Unlike in many of a travelers’ home countries, where transportation companies run roughshod over them when for instance flight delays occur or flights are cancelled and frankly don’t give a d***, once these travelers are in Europe their interests are protected by law.

ATCNews is giving an overview of the entitlements, or at least the most important ones, together with website links to the relevant information published by the EU.

Have you experienced or are you presently experiencing delays and cancellations?

As an air, rail, ship or bus passenger, you have rights when travelling in the EU.

Know your rights and insist that you are properly taken care of and / or compensated.

You can directly download a relevant app to have the information at your fingertips at all times:#

Download the “Your Passenger Rights” app to your smartphone ( Google AndroidApple iOS)

Otherwise, check out the links below for specific information of your entitlements. This also applies to passengers who are involuntarily denied boarding because of overbookings or spell out entitlements for passengers who voluntarily give up seats.

Air Passenger Rights:

EU air passenger rights apply:

  • If your flight is within the EU and is operated either by an EU or a non-EU airline
  • If your flight arrives in the EU from outside the EU and is operated by an EU airline
  • If your flight departs from the EU to a non-EU country operated by an EU or a non-EU airline
  • If you have not already received benefits (compensation, re-routing, assistance from the airline) for flight related problems for this journey under the relevant law of a non-EU country.

EU means the 27 EU countries, including Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion Island, Mayotte, Saint-Martin (French Antilles), the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands (but not the Faeroe Islands). EU rules also apply to flights to and from Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

How to claim your rights?

Claim your rights!

Rail Passenger Rights:

EU rules on rail passenger rights apply when you travel by rail within the EU , and generally apply to all rail journeys and services.

When you buy your ticket, the railway company or ticket vendor must give you clear information on:

  • general conditions applicable to your journey
  • time schedules and conditions for the lowest fares and the fastest trip
  • accessibility, access conditions and availability on board of facilities for people with disabilities or reduced mobility
  • services available on board
  • procedures for reclaiming lost luggage
  • complaint procedures

During your trip, the train operator must give information about on-board services, delays, security and safety issues and connecting services. If your train is delayed or cancelled, the operator must give you information on the situation in real time and provide information on your rights and obligations. 

How to claim your rights?

Claim your rights!

Bus / Coach Passenger Rights:

EU rules on bus and coach rights apply if your journey starts or finishes in an EU country, and mainly apply to regular long-distance bus and coach services. These rights apply if you are travelling with regular services that operate along specified routes where passengers are picked up and set down at predefined stopping points according to a set timetable. Long-distance means that the scheduled distance of the service, not your individual trip, is 250 km or more. 

Throughout your journey, the bus or coach operator has to provide clear and correct information about the service and your passenger rights. This information should also be made available in a format accessible for people with disabilities.

How to claim your rights?

Claim your rights!

Ship / Ferry Passenger Rights:

Rights in the event of delays and cancellations

EU rules on ship passenger rights usually apply when you travel on most ferries and cruise ships by sea or on inland waterways (rivers, lakes or canals) and if you:

  • sail from an EU port
  • sail to an EU port from a port outside the EU, if the service is operated by an EU transport company
  • sail from an EU port on a pleasure/recreational cruise if accommodation is offered together with other facilities, with more than 2 overnight stays on board.

These rules do not apply to:

  • ships that can carry up to 12 passengers
  • ships that have no more than 3 crew members
  • ships that cover a distance of less than 500 metres – one way
  • most types of historical ship
  • excursions and sightseeing ships – if they do not have accommodation facilities, or if the overnight stay does not exceed 2 nights on board

Throughout your journey, the operator has to provide clear and correct information about the service and your passenger rights, including access conditions for people with disabilities or reduced mobility. This information should also be available in a format accessible for people with disabilities.

Rights in the event of incidents at sea

EU rules also cover you, your luggage, your vehicle and if relevant, your mobility equipment in the event of an incident at sea. These rules also set out the carriers liabilities in this respect. These rules may apply to domestic sea journeys as well as all international journeys where:

  • the ship is registered in an EU country 
  • the contract for the journey was concluded in an EU country
  • the ship departs and/or arrives in an EU port

Before you travel the carrier must provide you with clear and appropriate information on your rights if you buy your ticket in an EU country or at the latest on departure if you leave from a non-EU country.

How to claim your rights?

Claim your rights! wishes all travelers a safe and on time journey but if anything goes wrong, you now have a better understanding of your rights and entitlements under European law, no matter if you are an EU citizen or citizen of any other country.

Bon Voyage!