Reader question: Can I be compensated in Switzerland if I am denied boarding?
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.
This summer has been rife with all kinds of travel disruptions, whether due to strikes or ground and air staff shortages.
And even more mayhem is expected at Swiss airports, as elsewhere, before the holiday season is over.
When that happens, European law, which also applies to Switzerland, sets conditions for passenger compensation.
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".
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.
A more common reason for denied boarding these days is that you test positive to Covid just before you travel.
If this happens, don’t expect the airline to compensate you. However, if you have travel insurance which doesn’t exclude coronavirus from its coverage, then you could get a refund for the missed flight.