Denied Boarding Compensation 

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Being denied the right to board an airline you’ve booked is a situation nobody would ever want to find themselves in. Being denied boarding could mean that you miss your important business meeting or a vacation you’ve been planning for months.

However, if the airline has stopped you from boarding your flight, you’re eligible to claim compensation under EU261, also known as EC261. This is European Regulation No. 261/2004, which governs your rights to compensation or assistance in case of cancelled flights, denied boarding, or long delays. 

In this guide, we tell you all about your rights should you be denied boarding, so you can be fairly compensated under the terms of EU261. 

What Does It Mean to Be Denied Boarding?

Denied boarding refers to a situation in which a passenger is already at the gate to board their flight but is denied boarding despite showing a valid ticket. If you must qualify for denied boarding compensation, another key criterion is that there must be no justifiable reason for the airline to not allow you to fly. 

Some of the reasons that airlines typically deny boarding include: 

  • There are too many passengers as the airline has overbooked the flight. 
  • The airline refuses to let passengers on the plane even though it’s set to fly as per schedule. 
  • The airline rebooked the passenger on another flight. 

The key detail to remember is that the airline must entirely be at fault for you to be entitled to compensation for denied boarding. The denial must be against your will as a passenger and without your consent. Furthermore, you must ensure the following:

  • You checked in on time (about 45 minutes before departure).
  • You carried and showed all the relevant travel-related documents. 
  • You don’t pose any health or safety risk to yourself or other passengers on your flight. 

With these parameters checked, you know that you did everything by the book and that it’s entirely the airline’s fault. 

Now, should your flight be overbooked, for instance, the airline is mandated to call on volunteers who are willing to be booked onto a flight for later. If you volunteer to board a flight scheduled for later, you’re entitled to certain benefits and advantages. However, you cannot claim bumped from flight compensation as you voluntarily agreed to not board it. 

Voluntary Denied Boarding 

As mentioned above, volunteering to board an alternative flight entitles you to certain benefits. These include the following – 

  • The reimbursement of the price of your ticket, and if necessary, the airline takes responsibility for your return flight to your departure airport. 
  • Meals and drinks while you wait for your alternative flight. 
  • The payment of an amount as compensation, as negotiated between you and the airline. 

However, to reiterate, voluntary denied boarding doesn’t entitle you to denied boarding compensation. 

Involuntary Denied Boarding 

If the airline doesn’t find volunteers, it often arbitrarily selects individuals who are then denied boarding and not allowed to take their scheduled flight. In this situation, the flight attendant might even try telling you that you don’t have some of the necessary documents for travel while you have everything in the book. 

When you’re unjustifiably denied boarding in this manner, you’re a victim of involuntary denied boarding and are entitled to compensation. This compensation is mandated to you under the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation under EU261. 

Passenger Rights in Case of Denied Boarding 

According to the EU’s Passenger Rights Regulation, air passengers are entitled to anywhere between 250€ and 600€ based on the distance they were  on the scheduled flight. 

Additionally, the airline is also required to immediately provide you with food and drinks as you await your next flight, along with two phone calls. You can also have your ticket refunded or request a replacement flight. 

If needed, you’ll also be provided with accommodation and any transport to take you to said accommodation. 

Conditions to Meet to Be Entitled to Denied Boarding Compensation 

As mentioned above, if the airline has booked a flight and prevents you from boarding it as planned, you’re entitled to compensation of anywhere between 250€ and 600€. To receive this compensation, you must ensure certain requirements are met. These include: 

  • You checked in for your flight on time, which is usually 45 minutes before departure. 
  • The flight you were denied boarding on wasn’t more than 3 years ago.
  • Your flight departed from the EU (this can be any airline) or landed in the EU (these must be airlines based in the EU).
  • You have a valid ticket and booking confirmation. 

You must note here that your booking type (single, business trip, or even a vacation) has no bearing on your right to compensation if the conditions mentioned above are met. 

Denied Boarding Compensation 

When it comes to receiving denied boarding compensation, the amount you receive is determined by two key factors. The first is the distance of travel and the second is the location of the flight and whether it falls within the jurisdiction of the European Union. 

All flights 1500 km or less. 250€
Internal EU flights over 1500 km400€
Non-internal EU flights between 1500-3500 km400€
Non-internal EU flights over 3500 km600€

Which Flights Does EU261 Cover? 

EU261 applies to all passengers on flights within Europe, along with flights that depart from Europe, or land in Europe. However, in terms of the latter (flights landing in Europe), you must land on a European airline. 

Itinerary EU air carrierNon-EU air carrier
From inside the EU to inside the EU✅ Covered✅ Covered
From inside the EU to outside the EU ✅ Covered✅ Covered
From outside the EU to inside the EU✅ Covered❌ Not covered
From outside the EU to outside the EU❌ Not covered❌ Not covered

How to Claim Denied Boarding Compensation 

There are two different ways in which you can receive compensation for being involuntarily denied boarding. We explore both options below. 

Seek Legal Representation 

The best option for a passenger who has been denied boarding is to seek the representation of one of our partners who provides the services of air passenger rights lawyers. We select the ideal partner based on your problem or area of concern, so you don’t have to go through the trouble of doing so yourself. 

Working with the right partner also increases your chances of receiving compensation, as they’re aware of the procedures in place. They’re also well-equipped to deal with any pushback from the airline’s end. 

Contact the Airline Directly 

If you have all the relevant documents for your flight, you can also apply for compensation on your own. However, you must be sure that the problem was caused entirely by the airline and that you were not at fault. This is the key to making your case eligible for compensation. Most passengers often take this approach, only to not receive the compensation they’re due. 

This is because it’s essential that every passenger knows their rights and also how to deal with airlines in a situation where they need to compensate you. Additionally, airlines often throw up different reasons for not doing so, and navigating them can be challenging. 

Other Rights That Come With EU261

Aside from the right to compensation under EU261, you’re also entitled to a few other rights which we discuss in this section. 

Right to Care 

As a passenger who’s been made to wait at the airport for extended hours, you have a right to care. For instance, if you’ve been waiting for 2+ hours, the carrier should provide you with food and refreshments. Additionally, they also have to provide you with two phone calls, two faxes or two emails. 

Upgrading and Downgrading 

If you’re offered an alternative flight and have been given an upgrade to a higher class, the airline cannot charge you for the increase in your ticket’s price. 

On the flip side, if you’re downgraded to a lower class on your alternative flight, you can receive a refund of anywhere between 30-75% of the price you originally paid. 

Further Compensation 

Your right under EU261 to receive compensation when you’re bumped off a flight does not negate your right to receive any further compensation. However, the key aspect to remember is that this doesn’t apply to a passenger who voluntarily chooses an alternative flight. 

Additionally, if you claim any further compensation, the amount that you’re entitled to receive under EU261 may be deducted from the additional compensation you receive. 


Does a Customer Get Compensation If They Are Denied Boarding Due to a Capacity Disruption?
Yes, a customer is entitled to receive compensation if they’ve been denied boarding due to capacity disruptions or failures. The terms of compensation and the amount received are governed by the regulations of the country or region where the airline operates. 

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