It happens again and again that passengers are informed by their airlines about the cancellation of their flights. Sometimes longer than 14 days before departure, sometimes less and often only at the gate. Passengers have rights, but many airlines are not particularly strict when it comes to complying with the regulation.
Basically, a distinction must be made as to whether the cancellation or significant change in flight times occurs less than 14 days before the flight date. This is relevant to the question of whether compensation payments of between EUR 250 and EUR 600 (depending on the distance) are due. Some carriers suggest to their passengers that outside of this period they only have the right to a rebooking or a refund. This is an extremely creative but completely wrong interpretation of the Air Passenger Rights Regulation.
This stipulates that passengers have the right to substitute transport. At the earliest possible point in time, this must be provided in such a way that the arrival time is delayed as little as possible. Especially on short journeys, it would also be permissible if train or long-distance bus tickets were handed out as an alternative. If the information about the cancellation is given more than 14 days before departure, there is no entitlement to compensation. This can be incurred within the deadline if you arrive at your destination at least three hours later. There are also rulings by the highest courts that have established a claim if the airline has moved the booked flight significantly earlier. This would have to be checked on a case-by-case basis, because it happens again and again, especially with package tours, that the flight times are not fixed.
Some carriers do not want to rebook to other airlines
In the case of replacement transportation, the airline must rebook on any airline that makes it possible to reach the destination as quickly as possible. The problem: Some carriers, including the low-cost airline Wizz Air, strictly refuse to rebook to other airlines. In principle, Austrian Airlines does not rebook to certain carriers. In such cases, things get complicated on the spot and travelers often have no choice but to pay in advance and then, if necessary, claim the expenses in court.
A rather complicated matter has just arisen in Germany: Condor has rebooked numerous flights that were sold under DE flight numbers from Hamburg and Munich, among other places, to the sister company Marabu Airlines (DI). Apparently, many passengers do not agree with this approach. Do you have to put up with this rebooking?
In the case of package tours, the airline is often not fixed at all
It depends on the framework in which the contract of carriage was concluded. In the case of package tours, you tend to have worse cards, since it is rarely explicitly agreed that the flights will be carried out with this airline. The terms and conditions of the tour operators often contain clauses that the airline or even the flight times can be changed at any time if necessary.
In the case of direct bookings, by rebooking on Marabu Airlines, Condor meets the obligation to provide alternative transportation. In this way, the carrier tries to fulfill its contract of carriage. However, there is no obligation for this rebooking, which represents a unilateral contract change. Passengers have the right to refuse and instead have the fare refunded in full and without deductions. Formally, it is a cancellation of the DE flights and a replacement carriage under DI flight numbers.
In principle, travelers also have the option of refusing the alternative transport "suggested" by Condor. At the moment, the emails that affected passengers have received strongly suggest that consent was not obtained, but that the passengers were presented with a fait accompli. It is possible to refuse the alternative transport and ask Condor to rebook to another airline. It should be noted, however, that experience has shown that many airlines simply respond to this request by refunding the fare already paid without comment. This makes the whole situation more difficult. Ultimately, you are then in a situation in which you are fundamentally right in terms of the Air Passenger Rights Ordinance, but in order to enforce this right, you often have to go to a lawyer or an advice center and occasionally also file a lawsuit against the respective carrier not over. Unfortunately, some airlines know this very well and speculate that travelers will not enforce their rights in court, which saves the bottom line and with that percentage that drags the airline to court, you pay more.
Your rights in the event of a flight cancellation
Airlines are obliged to inform passengers about flight cancellations in good time and to offer them alternative solutions. Similar regulations apply to passengers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland:
Right to information:
If your airline cancels your flight, you have the right to be informed of the cancellation immediately. This should usually be done at least 14 days before the scheduled departure.
Right to rebooking or refund:
The airline must give you the opportunity to choose between an alternative flight connection or a refund of the ticket price.
Right to care services:
If your flight has been canceled and you are stranded at the airport, you are entitled to assistance such as meals, refreshments, hotel accommodation and transportation between the airport and the hotel.
Right to compensation:
Depending on the circumstances of the flight cancellation, you may also be entitled to compensation under EU Regulation 261/2004. This compensation is up to 600 euros, depending on the flight route and the length of the delay.
Transfer to another airline: your rights
Sometimes airlines offer to rebook you on another airline's flight, which may be inconvenient for you. Here are your rights in this situation:
Approval or rejection:
You have the right to refuse the proposed rebooking, especially if you have strong preferences for a particular airline. The airline must then offer an alternative solution.
No additional costs:
Rebooking on another airline must not incur any additional costs for you. The original airline is responsible for processing the rebooking.
The airline must inform you of the reasons for the rebooking and all relevant details. More detailed information on passenger rights and enforcement options can be obtained free of charge from the chambers of labour, the agency for passenger and passenger rights, the consumer advice centers and the arbitration board for public transport. There are also special commercial providers and lawyers from whom you can also obtain information about enforcement options for a fee.