Flight delays or cancellations are frequently confronted in air travel, resulting in material damages and inconvenience for passengers. However, the circumstances under which passengers can demand recovery of damages for delays or cancellations (eg, when resulting from unfavourable weather conditions, natural disasters or technical defects in an aircraft mechanism) are often called into question.
For the purpose of protecting the rights of aggrieved passengers, new codes have been enacted in both EU and Turkish law. EU Regulation 261/2004, which governs air passenger rights in the event of delayed or cancelled flights, was enacted in 2004. In relation to the rights of air passengers under Turkish law, the Regulation on Air Passenger Rights (based on the EU regulation) entered into force on January 1 2012. The Turkish regulation governs the rights of passengers on flights by carriers of Turkish origin to and from airports in Turkey, as well as those on flights by foreign carriers from airports in Turkey (Article 2a).
In the event of a flight cancellation, the carrier must:
- offer help and alternatives to passengers by:
- refunding the ticket price in full;
- providing a place on the earliest possible alternative flight to the passenger’s final destination; or
- providing an equivalent flight on another date at the passenger’s convenience (Article 9/1);
- provide services to passengers, including hot and cold beverages, breakfast or lunch and accommodation in a hotel, where the delay is for one or more nights (Article 10).
Passengers have the right to demand compensation for damages if:
- they were notified of the cancellation less than 14 days before the planned departure date;
- they were notified of the cancellation between seven and 14 days before the planned flight and no route changes were offered that would enable them to depart no more than two hours before the planned departure time and arrive at the planned destination no more than four hours after the planned arrival time; or
- they were informed of the cancellation less than seven days before the planned flight and no route changes were offered that would enable them to depart no more than one hour before the planned departure time and arrive at the planned destination no more than two hours after the planned arrival time (Article 6).
The compensation for delayed national flights is €100, paid in its equivalent in Turkish lira. The compensation for international flights will depend on the distance and will be paid in Turkish lira.
Nevertheless, the carrier will not be liable for compensation if it can prove that the flight cancellation was due to force majeure and that it took all necessary precautions (Article 6).
Accordingly, passengers may not demand compensation from a carrier in the event of natural disasters, unfavourable weather conditions and other similar circumstances. However, in such cases the carrier must offer and provide the services stated in Articles 9 and 10 of the regulation.
Passengers’ rights following delayed flights are governed by Article 7 of the regulation. Accordingly, carriers must provide certain services to passengers, depending on the distance and the length of the delay. The carrier must offer passengers hot and cold beverages and breakfast or lunch, as well as providing opportunities to communicate by telephone, email or fax if the delay is:
- at least two hours for flights of less than 1,500 kilometres (km) and for domestic flights;
- at least three hours for flights of between 1,500km and 3,500km; and
- at least four hours for flights of more than 3,500km.
The air carrier must also offer accommodation in a hotel, and transport thereto, if the estimated departure is on another date to that originally agreed. If the delay is for more than five hours, passengers may demand a full refund of the ticket price. In any case, the air carrier must offer the assistance stated by the regulation.
Furthermore, under Article 15 of the regulation, in case of flight delays and cancellations, the carrier must inform passengers of their rights.