Uncovered: How EU261 Gets You Hotel and Meals for US Flight Delays

EU regulation 261 (2004) requires airlines to compensate passengers between €250 and €600 cash for flight delays of over 3 hours, for cancellations, and for involuntary denied boardings due to overbooking. The amount depends on the distance of the flight.

This applies to flight departures from EU countries, and it applies to flights headed to the EU on airlines based there. It also includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. And it applies to award tickets not just paid tickets. Here’s how to claim the cash compensation.

But that’s not all. EU261 includes ‘duty of care’ requirements like a hotel night if you’re stranded during a trip even because of weather. But did you know that this duty of care applies to U.S. domestic flights, on U.S. airlines, if you’re flying back from Europe?

  • If your New York JFK – Los Angeles flight cancels due to weather, passengers originating in Chicago may not receive any assistance.

  • But if you flew Paris – New York JFK on American Airlines, and were connecting to Los Angeles, then when that LA flight cancels due to weather American Airlines has to provide you with a hotel room, meals, and other accommodations.

Maybe your fellow passengers get these sandwiches at the gate, though the airline isn’t required to provide them during a weather delay:

American Airlines is reminding their staff about the greater requirements to take care of passengers connecting off of a flight from Europe. European-originating passengers have more rights than U.S. passengers do.

President Biden has proposed to make similar rules apply in the United States but only if he is re-elected. While the President announced the plan in the first half of last year, the Department of Transportation never initiated a rulemaking, saving it as a ‘middle class pocketbook campaign issue’ instead. (The courts will ultimately decide, but I do not believe that the Department of Transportation can suddenly do this by regulation without authorization by Congress, purely based on promoting ‘safe and efficient’ air travel.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary,

    What do you do when the airline refuses to still pay after eu261? I took TAP to eu261 and after 2 years they agreed on a settlement but still refused to pay.. I’ve concluded that I’m out 650 euro and TAP sucks. Never fly TAP

  2. I really want to see someone hold them to the “two email messages” requirement. “Thanks for the meal, hotel, and transportation, now where are my two emails?!”

  3. Have you covered the story about how your US Senator — you know notorious Cancun-going US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas — wants to make a special class of American passengers who have airport security screening benefits that most Americans won’t be able to have? He wants elected federal legislators, federal judges and some other categories of people on the US federal government payroll to get special airport security screening benefits not available to the average American, purportedly to spare them from being harassed by fellow traveling citizens.

  4. Jonathan,

    You can do as suggested by Señor Leff, or you can hit up the national enforcement body in the EC 261/2004-applicable country where your interrupted trip originated.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the national enforcement bodies tend to be less consistent and/or less consumer-friendly when a claim is made against a carrier from the same country as the national enforcement body, but government regulators are one way to go about even as it seems to be slower going than when the airline sees a claim mill firm involved that knows what flies and doesn’t fly for claims.

    Some carriers are much better about EC 261/2004 claims processing than others. SAS, for example, has been great in dealing with our submitted claims while TAP is typically TAP in so many ways that it’s frustrating.

  5. @Gary

    Thanks Gary, I didnt go that route to save cash. I guess i learned 2 things.
    1. Use those companies and get some money which is better then none
    2. Never fly tap..

  6. @Guwonder,

    I did go through the German transportation authority, they sent me to https://soep-online.de/.
    the process took several weeks but in the end TAP did agree on the settlement amount. Received an email stating TAP has agreed to pay. Then nothing came. Emailed them back and they said they cant force TAP to pay. It’s just crazy, why agree to a settlement if your not going to pay. Just to get rid of the regulatory body?
    Thanks, next time I’ll use those companies.

  7. If tap is covered under the EU policy then can you sue in small claims court since it is not covered under FAA rules now

  8. @Jonathan, @Gary

    When you decide to file a 261, you actually have THREE choices. You can file with the airline or have a paid company file, as Gary said. But, most people do not realize that you have a third choice. You can file with EU, through section that handles these claims But, at least you know that you can get satisfaction without hassle of a bad airline or vulture.

    Living in Europe, I am well acquainted with the process,

  9. Gary,

    Did you go to a headline writing seminar?




    The headlines read more like tabloid crap than what you’d expect from a “thought leader”.

  10. @alanZ any links to file directly?
    I was traveling w P2 on separeate reservations on DL.
    Due to storms in Boston, we were pushed out by 24 hours and rerouted on United.
    Also downgraded from J to Y.

    I wrote identical emails to Delta via their website. Neither of us have status on DL.
    P2 got $1,250 in DL cash.
    I got $0.

    I would like to get EC261 compensation. Any suggestions?

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