Alternative flight after cancellation
When your flight is cancelled or you are denied boarding for unjustified reasons (like overbooking), you are entitled to alternative transportation to your destination. Usually, you would be rebooked to another flight.
Rebooking: Only to flights of the same airline?
What happens quite often is that the airline which should have operated your flight can only offer you an alternative flight which is hours or even days later.
The airlines are only willing to book flights operated by their business partners, but not those of competitors.
Alternative flight: What are my rights?
Naturally, this is very frustrating for consumers. They have to wait long hours, miss parts of their holidays, have to cancel their hotels or arrive at work late.
Unfortunately, the air passenger rights regulation of the EU doesn't define the "alternative transportation" in detail. It just states that the re-routing should be "under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity".
This leads to some follow-up questions, like: Under which circumstances do I have to accept transportation by bus or train? Can I request to be rebooked to another airline for free? At once or only after a period of (waiting) time? Doest the flight route or the duration of my planned stay at the destination matter in any way?
Unsurprisingly, consumer advocates see answer those questions a little differently than airlines.
In the last 13 years, since the air passenger rights regulation is in force, we received a lot of complaints regarding this topic at the ECC.
Important verdict in Austria
The Austrian High Court (OGH) made an important decision regarding a test case (file number 1Ob133/18) of our colleagues from the Austrian consumer association (Verein für Konsumenteninformation, VKI).
According to the verdict, passengers can demand to be rebooked to the earliest available flight - regardless of the operator of the flight!
If the rebooking was denied, so that the passenger had to pay for the new ticket himself, he can claim a refund of these costs. The refund of the ticket price for the idle, cancelled flight is not sufficient.
Please note: You are obliged to ask the initial airline for the rebooking to an alternative flight. If you book the flight yourself without giving the airline a chance to do it for you, it may get expensive.
It is expected that the verdict of the Austrian High Court will have an impact for passengers in general. It could become an important argument in out-of-court interventions, at least regarding Austrian air carriers and flight bookings departing or arriving in Austria.
Find out more about your rights as an air passenger in our article Problems during air travel.