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Reader question: Can I be compensated in Switzerland if I am denied boarding?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Reader question: Can I be compensated in Switzerland if I am denied boarding?
If you are denied boarding because of airline error, you may be eligible for compensation. Photo by Eitan ABRAMOVICH / AFP

As chaos prevails at many airports and a number of airlines, including in Switzerland, are cancelling some flights, questions about passenger rights are very timely.


As dozens of flights were cancelled at the Geneva airport on June 30th due to a strike, stranding about 8.000 passengers, questions arose about what compensation can be expected for those who were unable to travel.

EasyJet, for whom Geneva is one of the main hubs, said customers who missed their flights would be reimbursed.

The airline contacted by email or SMS all customers whose flights were scheduled between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. on June 30th, the initial time of the strike. They were all offered a refund or a free transfer to a new flight, as they chose. 

But what are the rules for compensations in general?

When flights are cancelled, European law, which also applies to Switzerland, sets conditions for passenger compensation.

READ MORE:  Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

But what, if any, compensation are you entitled to if you hold a valid ticket, the flight is not cancelled, but you are denied boarding at a Swiss airport?

The answer to this question depends on the reason why you are not allowed to board.

If it is because the flight is overbooked — that is, the airline sold more tickets than it has seats, which is a pretty common practice — then you are definitely entitled to be compensated.


What can you expect to get?

According to the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), the airline must offer you the choice between reimbursement of the ticket price or re-booking you on another flight to your destination.

You are also entitled to be compensated for your inconvenience to the tune of:

  • 250 euros for flights with a distance of up to 1,500 kilometres
  • 400 euros for flights with a distance of between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres
  • 600 euros for flights with a distance of more than 3,500 kilometres

Additionally, the airline must offer you meals and beverages "in reasonable relation to the waiting time", FOCA says.

"If your onward flight is delayed until the next day, the airline is required to offer hotel accommodation (including transport) if necessary. It also has to offer you telecommunication facilities".

In the event the airline has not fulfilled the obligations listed above, you can file a complaint with FOCA by filling out this form and emailing it to  [email protected].

Again, this only concerns departures from one of the Swiss airports — Zurich, Geneva, or Basel.


What if you are denied boarding for other reasons?

The airline may have legitimate grounds for refusing to let you fly, in which case you are not entitled to any compensation from them.

For instance, if you arrive late at the airport check-in or at the departure gate, or if you don’t have all the required travel documents, you can be denied boarding. In such cases you can’t claim any settlement, because the fault is yours, not the airline’s.

Also, if you get aggressive with the airport or airline staff and security services are called in, you will not fly and may even be fined for your misconduct.

READ MORE: What you should know before you travel abroad from Switzerland



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