Liability of Carriers I

An EU regulation provides for harmonised obligations for EU air carriers in relation to liability in the event of accidents to passengers.  It applies to death, personal injury arising from incidents on board an aircraft or during embarking or disembarking operations.

The liability of the carrier or air transport undertaking for damage caused to a passenger or baggage in the event of an accident cannot be subject to a financial limit provided by law, convention or a contract.  The carrier is liable unless it can prove the damage was caused by the negligence of the injured or deceased passenger.  Compensation must be paid to the victim.  An advance, proportional to the damage sustained, must be paid within 15 days after identification of the victim.

Passengers must be informed of a carrier\’s liability in the event of an accident and of his rights, including compensation.  The provisions must be included in the conditions of the carriage.

A 2002 Regulation brings EU law into compliance with the Montréal Convention.  It harmonises liability limits and defences in relation to EU air carriers.  The Convention provides unlimited liability for death and personal injury.  The obligation to insure requires EU-based carriers to be insured to a level that is adequate to ensure all persons entitled to compensation receive the full amount to which they would be entitled under the regulation.

Carriers must provide passengers with a written indication of

  • the applicable limit for the flight in question on the carrier\’s liability in respect of death or personal injury (usually no limit);
  • the applicable limit for the flight in question of the carrier\’s liability when baggage is destroyed, lost or damaged and
  • the limit for the flight in question of liability occasioned by delay.

Liability of Carrier II

The carrier\’s liability in relation to passengers and their baggage relates to compensation in the event of death or injury, advance payments, liability for passenger delay and destruction and loss or damage to baggage.

Compensation for death or injury is subject to no limits.  The first tier of strict liability is up to 100,000 SDR, and the air carrier may not contest claims for compensation.  The second tier of liability is based on presumed fault which may be avoided only by the carrier proving that it was not at fault.

There is provision for advanced payments to cover immediate economic needs within 15 days after the identification of the person concerned.  In the case of death, this must be not less than 16,000 SDR.

In the case of passenger delay, unless the air carrier took all reasonable measures, the potential liability is up to 4150 SDR in the event of delay.

In the event of damage, delay or destruction of a baggage a complaint in writing must be made.

Actions for damages must be taken within two years after the arrival of the aircraft or the date on which the aircraft should have arrived.

Minimum Insurance

EU regulation requires air carriers and aircraft operators to maintain minimum insurance.  This covers passengers, baggage, cargo and third parties.  It applies both to domestic private flights and commercial flights.

The regulation applies to air carriers and aircraft operators flying in, out of or over the EU.  It does not apply to military, customs, police and other state aircraft.  It does not apply to certain other flying equipment including model aircraft, balloons, kites, parachutes, certain aircraft and microlights used for non-commercial purposes.

The risks required to be covered are specified.  Particular aviation type risks such as acts of war, terrorism, hijacking, unlawful seizure which might generally be excluded from a policy are required to be covered.  The rules supplement international rules subsisting under other convention.

Aircraft operators and carriers must be in a position to demonstrate compliance with the rules.  They must be in a position to produce certificates of insurance to the competent authority.

The minimum liability in respect of passengers is to be 250,000 SDR per passenger.  In certain circumstances a lower limit is permissible.  In respect of baggage, insurance must be 1,131 SDR per passenger in commercial operations.  In relation to cargo, minimum insurance is 19 SDR per kilogram in commercial operations.

The levels of cover are not applicable to flights over EU states carried out by non-EU carriers and operators using aircraft registered outside the EU.

There is minimum insurance cover for liability to third parties.  This is determined by reference to the weight of the aircraft.  It ranges up to 700 million SDR.

States must ensure compliance by air carriers and air operators.  Where the oversights do not involve landing or take-off in the EU, states may require proof of insurance requirements.  Sanctions must be effective and dissuasive and proportionate.

Delayed / Denied Boarding

A 2004 EU regulation requires common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers who are denied boarding or whose flights are cancelled or subject to significant delay.  The rules apply to passengers departing from any airport within the EU or departing from a third country to an EU situate airport.

Passengers must have a confirmed reservation on the flight concerned.  Except for a cancellation, they must present themselves to check-in at the time indicated, or if none is indicated, 45 minutes before the departure time.

Where an air carrier expects to deny boarding due to overbooking, it may call for persons to surrender reservations in exchange for a benefit.  If they cannot obtain a sufficient number of volunteers, they may deny boarding to passengers involuntarily, but they must compensate them.  Priority must be given to persons with reduced mobility and persons who accompany them.

In the event of a flight cancellation or denial of boarding, the passenger has a right to reimbursement of the cost of the ticket within seven days or through a return flight to the first point of departure or re-routing to the final destination.  They have a right to care including refreshment, meals, hotel accommodation, transport between hotels, place of accommodation, two free phone calls, telex or fax messages or e-mail.  They have a right to compensation totalling €250 for all flights of less than 1500 km, €400 for all inter-EU flights of more than 1500km and other flights of 1500 to 3500 km.  A sum of €600 applies to other flights.

In the event of delays of two hours or more depending on the flight distance, passengers must be offered free meals and refreshments plus two free phone calls, telex, fax or e-mail access.  If the time of departure is deferred till the next day they must be offered hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and place of accommodation.  Where the delay is five hours or longer, they may opt for reimbursement of the ticket cost together, if relevant with a return flight to the first point of departure.

If the carrier places a passenger in a class lower than that for which he was booked, the passenger must be reimbursed with 30% of the price for flights below 1500 km, 50% between 1500 and 3500 km and 75% in all other cases.

Upgrading and downgrading

If an air carrier places a passenger in a class lower than that for which the ticket was purchased, the passenger must be reimbursed within 7 days, as follows:

30 % of the price of the ticket for all flights of 1,500 kilometres or less;
50 % of the price of the ticket for all intra-EU flights of more than 1,500 kilometres, except flights between EU countries and the French overseas departments, and for all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres;
75 % of the price of the ticket for all other flights, including flights between EU countries and the French overseas departments.

Reservations Systems

An EU regulation provides for a code of conduct for computerised reservation systems used in air transport.  It also applies to rail transport products incorporated within the air transport products in certain cases.

A system operator must not impose unfair or discriminatory conditions in contracts with participating carriers or subscribers.  It must not prevent a participating carrier from using other reservation systems.

Sellers of systems must apply the same treatment to all carriers in relation to distributing their transport products.  It must inform them of changes to their facilities or loading procedures.  It must ensure its distribution facilities are clearly separated from the management and marketing or participating carriers.

The Commission may audit system vendors every four years or on request.  While it finds there is an infringement it may require steps to terminate the infringement.

Rights of people with reduced mobility — air travel

Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 — rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air

It prohibits air carriers from refusing reservation or boarding to passengers because of their reduced mobility or disability*.
It also ensures that these passengers receive free-of-charge assistance to enable them to use air transport on an equal footing with other passengers.

Exceptions and special conditions

Under certain circumstances, an air carrier, its agent or a tour operator may refuse reservation or boarding to a person with reduced mobility or disability:

in order to meet applicable safety requirements established by law (the carrier may also request the person be accompanied by another person capable of providing assistance to meet these safety requirements),
if the size of the aircraft or its doors makes boarding or carriage of that person physically impossible.

In either of these situations, the person affected must be immediately informed of the reasons. Reasonable efforts must be made to offer that person an acceptable alternative. Persons who were denied boarding for these reasons have the rights to reimbursement or re-routing according to Regulation (EC) No 261/2004.

Airport assistance

Persons with reduced mobility or disability are entitled to receive the assistance specified in the regulation free of charge:

in airports (on departure, arrival and during transit), and
on board aircraft (for example, the transport of mobility equipment and the carriage of guide dogs for the blind).
The managing bodies of airports may fund these services by levying a specific charge on airport users.

Infringements and penalties

EU and European Free Trade Association countries must lay down penalties for infringements of the regulation and set up independent bodies to deal with complaints.

Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 establishes EU-wide rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding, as well as for cancellation or long delay of flights.


In 2012, the European Commission published guidelines on the interpretation of the regulation. These addressed practical problems and uncertainties that remain for both air carriers and for passengers with disability or reduced mobility.

Application & Background

It entered into force on 15 August 2006.


*Disabled person or person with reduced mobility: any person whose mobility when using transport is reduced due to any physical disability (sensory or affecting mobility, whether permanent or temporary), intellectual disability or impairment, or any other cause of disability, or age, who needs appropriate attention and adaptation of the service made available to all passengers to his or her particular needs.


Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air (OJ L 204, 26.7.2006, pp. 1-9)

Successive amendments to Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91 (OJ L 46, 17.2.2004, pp. 1-8)

Information for passengers: air carriers’ identity

Regulation (EC) No 2111/2005 — list of air carriers subject to an operating ban within the EU and the identity of operating air carriers

It establishes a publicly available list of airlines which are banned from flying in the EU because they do not meet the required safety standards (Annex A) and of airlines that are restricted from flying under certain conditions (Annex B).
It ensures that passengers know the identity of the airline they fly with.

Key Points

An airline is placed on the banned list if it is found to have serious safety deficiencies and fails to correct them.
Common EU criteria based on relevant safety standards exist to determine whether an operating ban should be imposed. The European Commission may amend these in the light of scientific and technical developments.
If unforeseen safety problems arise, an EU country may impose an immediate ban on an airline.
Airlines are given the opportunity to be heard if the Commission adopts decisions to place an air carrier on the banned list.
The list is published in the EU’s Official Journal. The Commission and EU countries must facilitate public access to the list, notably via the internet. Civil aviation authorities and airports must also make the public aware of it.
Ticket sellers, tour operators and travel agents must inform passengers of the identity of the airline that is planned to be used for their travel when they make their bookings. Passengers must be informed of any subsequent changes as soon as possible and, at the latest, at check-in or when boarding.
Passengers are entitled to reimbursement or re-routing if the airline is placed on the banned list after they make their booking.
In December 2015, the Commission published a comprehensive aviation strategy for Europe. In addition to looking to improve the sector’s competitiveness, the strategy emphasises the importance of maintaining high safety and security standards and protection of passengers’ rights.

By November 2016, each non-EU airline flying to the EU will need to have a single air safety authorisation issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency. These authorisations validate airlines’ compliance with international safety standards and are valid throughout the EU.

Application & Background

It applies from 16 January 2006.

List of airlines banned within the EU


Regulation (EC) No 2111/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 December 2005 on the establishment of a Community list of air carriers subject to an operating ban within the Community and on informing air transport passengers of the identity of the operating air carrier, and repealing Article 9 of Directive 2004/36/EC (OJ L 344, 27.12.2005, pp. 15–22)

Successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 2111/2005 have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Commission Regulation (EC) No 474/2006 of 22 March 2006 establishing the Community list of air carriers which are subject to an operating ban within the Community referred to in Chapter II of Regulation (EC) No 2111/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council (OJ L 84, 23.3.2006, pp. 14–28). See consolidated version.


Important Notice! This website is provided for informational purposes only! It is a fundamental condition of the use of this website that no liability is accepted for any loss or damage caused by reason of any error, omission, or misstatement in its contents. 

Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.