Flight Compensation After Brexit
There are several issues that need to be clarified regarding flight compensation after Brexit. UK citizens enjoy impressive air passenger rights. The rights and laws that are in place encourage airlines to continuously improve their services. When things go wrong, particularly when a flight is delayed or canceled, flight compensation is always paid to passengers. Most of these air passenger rights are in place via the European Union (EU).
The EU Withdrawal Act
Currently, many airline passengers afraid about what will happen if the UK leaves the EU. The EU Withdrawal Act can help sort out the confusion. The UK accepted the EU Withdrawal Act in 2018. Its official name is the European Union Withdrawal Bill. This bill actually consolidates all EU laws onto the UK books. It is essentially a ‘copy and paste’ endeavor. This means that all the rules and regulations made in the EU while the UK was a member will continue to apply after Brexit.
What does this mean for airline passengers? The EU Withdrawal Act has a section about aviation, and the current regulations that apply to EU member countries will still be applied in the UK. However, there will be some amendments, so there is a big possibility that there will be changes with the flight compensation after Brexit.
Brexit and EC261
EC261 is a European Union regulation that was created and designed to protect passengers who experience flight delays in Europe.
Everyone knows that delays are part and parcel of traveling. EC261 was enacted way back in 2004 by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament as a form of flight compensation if you are on a delayed flight leaving from or flying to Europe. It is eligible for the following passengers:
- If you’re a passenger traveling from an airport which is part of the European Union.
- If you’re a passenger traveling to an airport which is part of the European Union and riding on an airline that’s based in Europe.
- If you have a confirmed reservation, have checked in properly, and you are not late.
If you meet all the eligibility requirements mentioned and if your flight is delayed for a minimum of 2 hours or more, that’s the only time you can get refreshments, accommodation, and the right to make phone calls. The delay is calculated at the time the aircraft doors are opened. If the delay is more than five hours long, then the EC261 law states that you have the option to get a refund. You can also possibly get cash flight compensation which is calculated based on the time that you will get to your final destination or in the event of a cancellation.
Here’s the big question: What will happen with EC261 and the flight compensation after Brexit? The best option for UK passengers is, of course, to remain within its jurisdiction. After all, it is the best regulation, existing, in the world. After the UK’s exit from the EU is finalized, EC261 will still be applied to all flights from EU member countries to the UK. However, with flights from the UK to EU member countries, that might say a different story. The situation is still a big question mark until negotiations are undertaken.
Looking at the Possibility of Amending Flight Compensation Claim Laws
Considering, the UK government may introduce an amended version of EC261, some of the airlines have pleaded for modification of the legislation in order to make it lean on their favor. Many of these airlines want to decrease the flight compensation payments after Brexit when there is a delayed flight or cancellation.
Under EU261, flight delays and cancellations let you claim between 250 Euros and 600 Euros, depending on the flight distance between the point of departure and final destination. EC261 also compensates passengers who have been denied boarding. Depending on the distance, flight compensation ranges from 250 euro to 600 euro.
Requirements to Getting Compensation
Here are the requirements that will entitle passengers to get flight compensation:
- The cancellation was made 14 days before departure.
- The passenger arrived at the destination from 3 to more than 3 hours later than planned.
- Check-in time was on time, which is no less than 45 minutes before departure.
- The airline is at fault for the delay or cancellation, such as technical issues or a sick crew member.
- The delay or cancellation was experienced on a flight no more than 6 years ago.
- The flight in question took off and landed in the EU or UK.
Covering Gaps to Passenger rights Post-Brexit
One silver lining in this Brexit scenario is that the UK has always had long-standing principles when it comes to consumer protection. These approaches to consumer protection will most likely continue post-Brexit. These include fare transparency and passenger services.
Legislation has also been made in order to cover any gaps left in EC261. It covers all flights departing from the UK, all flights departing outside the UK and landing in the UK, and all flights departing outside the UK and landing in the EU.
Under the new UK legislation, short-distance flight delays of up to 1500km could entitle the passenger to £220 compensation, while medium distance flight delays could entitle passengers to £400. For long-distance light delays of over 3500 km, passengers will be entitled to £600 compensation.
How are Airlines Preparing for Brexit?
There is a huge concern that UK airlines may not be able to operate inter-EU flights. Of course, UK-based airlines will still be able to fly between the UK going to all countries who are EU members. However, there is a possibility that after Brexit, the airlines might not have easy access to a bigger range of routes within the EU. There is a question of whether airborne flights will be denied landing in Britain. There is a complex set of agreements concerning commercial landings and departures of airlines, and the UK’s right to fly has been governed by laws of the EU. There are also border management issues that need to be considered. This will most likely impact passenger facilitation and cargo operations.
The good news is that the EU approved a no-deal Brexit Contingency Action Plan. One of the agreements is the assurance that air connectivity between the EU and the UK will still be in place. However, this contingency plan has an expiration date. It only sets a 12-month period, and after that, the EU and UK will no longer recognize certain aviation and pilot licenses. This means that a new deal has to be worked out. When it comes to routes and operating in Europe, UK airlines have been thinking ahead by forming subsidies in other European countries. This is in everybody’s interest because there are about 200 million people flying to and from the UK each year.
The Effects of Brexit on Air Travel
A Brexit deal will have several effects on air travel for UK citizens. The changes will not only affect air passenger rights but also other important aspects of traveling and the holiday experience. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for example, which provides EU travelers a reduced cost in emergency medical treatments within the EU countries, will no longer be valid. Since UK residents will no longer be covered by EHIC, the cost of travel insurance may possibly increase.
Visa requirements may also change. Although the EU has announced that UK citizens will not need visas to visit European countries, they cannot stay for as long as they wish anymore. UK citizens will be given a limited number of days when they visit and EU country.
If both the UK and the EU sign the withdrawal agreement, traveling to Europe for UK citizens will remain the same. There will be no changes to the entry requirements that are currently enforced today.
However, if the UK leaves with no deal, there may be some changes in entry requirements. A UK no-deal scenario also means a greater level of uncertainty in immigration processes, including passenger facilitation. For instance, there might be situations wherein UK citizens may be required validity of up to 15 months on their passports in order to ensure entry to another EU country. Requirements may vary depending on the country.
The Bottom Line
For UK citizens, there will be no real change in their entitlements because EU law will continue to apply if there is an extension of the EU’s Article 50 (Withdrawal from the European Union). If the UK exits without any deal, the UK has also put laws in place that preserve passengers’ rights.
The bottom line is that UK citizens are holding on to what the Government has said: “…in the event of a Brexit no-deal, flight rights of passenger will remain the same in the UK.” If everything stays the same, then it is definitely good news for UK passengers.