An overview of EU Regulation 261/2004
and how it applies to Denied Boarding
We provided an introduction to
the concept of denied boarding or flight bumping in our overview.
What does European legislation (EU 261/2004) say on the subject?
What does EU 261/2004 say it attempts to achieve?
Let us look at what this European rule sets itself as a goal.
This “mission-statement” can be found in the introduction
or “preamble” to the regulation.
This contained within Recitals 9-11 of EU Regulation 261/2004.
(9) The number of passengers denied boarding against their
will should be reduced by requiring air carriers to call for
volunteers to surrender their reservations, in exchange for
benefits, instead of denying passengers boarding, and by fully
compensating those finally denied boarding.
(10) Passengers denied boarding against their will should be
able either to cancel their flights, with reimbursement of
their tickets, or to continue them under satisfactory conditions,
and should be adequately cared for while awaiting a later flight.
(11) Volunteers should also be able to cancel their flights,
with reimbursement of their tickets, or continue them under
satisfactory conditions, since they face difficulties of travel
similar to those experienced by passengers denied boarding
against their will.
What the regulation attempts to do is perhaps to formalise
what may be an existing practise by some/most? Airlines anyway.
The important difference is that most airlines are so shy of
disclosing the mechanics of this practise the regulation provides
a standard which is enforceable by the airline passenger.
As we shall consider later on it also provides a clear comparison
between the compensation value of the benefits that can be
offered in the event of a compulsory denied boarding and those
that might be offered in a voluntary denied boarding.
If you like compare the situation of voluntary denied boarding
to an auction. The airline induces the potential voluntary
passengers with a reward. The airline might be required to
increase the bid to entice the passenger to volunteer.
Some travellers with more time than money-students and the like-may are quite
happy to give up their seat in exchange for a reward-some even might search
out these opportunities.
What the EU regulation has in fact done is underwritten the value of that inducement
by providing a reserve value for the compensation in the event that there are
not sufficient volunteers o give up their seat.
What is more this is not a secret reserve that only the auctioneer may know
but a public advertised reserve.
An airline can still call for volunteers to give up their seat but if you know
261/2004 you can understand what the minimum cash value that is available in
the event that there are no volunteers.
What passengers invited to volunteer their seat might wish to compare is the
value of the benefits offered by the airline compared with the underwritten
cash offer that the airline is compelled to provide in the event that they
are compelled to make an involuntary denied boarding .
What passengers would like to know is the methodology that airlines use to
induce potential volunteers to give up their reservation. Does the airline
offer an upgrade or travel vouchers. Does it not bother attempting any such
voluntary arrangement short of the cash amount as set out in EU Regulation
With respect to flights taking place within the United States there is certain
unofficial comparison of voluntary awards between airlines.
European airlines practise is more difficult to determine.
If you have experience of voluntary denied boarding compensation
offers please let us know.
When you understand what the intention and mechanics of involuntary and voluntary
denied boarding is it is time to overlay the values of compensation that
EU261/2004 applies to INVOLUNTARY denied boarding.
These values could assist in a negotiation with the airline to increase the
amount of Voluntary compensation offered by the airline.
If all the potential volunteers could be aware that they could collude together
to withhold their voluntary consent to accept to be bumped they could effectively
price-fix the value of the compensation. Effectively they could form their
own mini-cartel and bid up the price of this compensation.
Therefore airlines may approach individual passengers-the more impoverished
or desperate they look the better -and, out of earshot of other passengers,
invite them to give up their seat in exchange for an amount of compensation
which, in strictly cash terms, is less than the amount the airline would
be obliged to offer in the event of an involuntary denied boarding.
EU 261/2004 therefore underpins the value that an airline must provide you
in the event that the airline cannot find volunteers to give up their seat.
If you are invited to volunteer your seat and you know what the airline must
provide you in the event of a compulsory denied boarding it is possible that
you could attempt to bid up the offer of voluntary compensation.
Tell Flightmole the offer an airline makes you to give up your seat.
Flightmole wishes to burrow deeper into this area. Is the offer that one
airline makes the same for all occasions and all places.
Does a particular offer have a flexible policy of offering voluntary compensation
and how far can you bid up the voluntary compensation offered.
Remember the offer that the airline makes you may cost them very little in
cash terms-an upgrade or even travel vouchers. If you sense you have a better
bargaining position you might be able to increase this offer of benefits
Join the Flightmole forum and tell us your experience of Voluntary Denied
Boarding Compensation. Compare your experience with other Flightmole users.