Since the spread of the covid-19 virus, a number of EU countries have introduced measures that limit our mobility, for example through; travel restrictions, quarantine and closed operations. All with the aim to better position private individuals as well as the public and private sectors when navigating this unprecedented pandemic.

So how are you as a traveler affected if you have a flight booked and do not want to travel or cannot travel because of a canceled flight?

On March 18, the European Commission presented detailed guidelines to ensure that EU passenger rights are applied in the same way and that passengers are protected throughout the EU.

Airlines that cancel flights have an obligation, in any case, to offer passengers one of three options:

  1. Refund
  2. Re-booking to departure as soon as possible
  3. Rebooking to a later date chosen by the passenger

Many airlines offer vouchers as a means of fulfilling the above obligation, however passengers are not obliged to accept this form of compensation.

The outbound and return flights are always considered as two separate flight seven if they were booked as part of one reservation. In some cases the airline operating the flight (also known as the operating air carrier) may not be the same as the one from which you bought your ticket. In case of any difficulties only the airline which operates the flight can be held responsible. In cases where an airline hires (under a wet lease) an aircraft including a crew from another airline, the airline which hires the aircraft has operational responsibility for the flight and is regarded as the operating airline under EU rules.

If the passengers themselves decide to cancel their journey, the right to refund of the ticket price depends on the type of ticket and the cited reasons for the cancellation. At the same time, the guidelines clarify that the current circumstances are "extraordinary", with the consequence that certain rights - for example compensation for canceled flights less than two weeks from the departure date - cannot be invoked.

Allmänna Reklamationsnämnden in Sweden (ARN) has publicly defended the above mentioned traveler rights during these extraordinary times with reservations for cases where it is the traveler that cancels the flight. For travelers in these situations that still wishes to access the above remedies it has to be proven that there is a high risk for the traveler to be exposed to the covid-19 virus or other directly dangerous exposure during their travel. The burden of proof is on the traveler in these cases.


Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council:

The European Commission's of guidelines:

Author: Venessa Simonovski, Paralegal - WYZ Law Group