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TRAVEL NEWS

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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TRAIN TRAVEL

Five European cities you can reach from Zurich in less than five hours by train

Switzerland is a beautiful country, but it also has a great location right in the centre of Europe, making it an ideal starting point for train travel. Here are five destinations you can reach in less than five hours from Zurich.

Five European cities you can reach from Zurich in less than five hours by train

As summer is still in full swing and there are many vacation days (or free weekends) to enjoy the sunny weather, it’s not the wrong time to do some travelling. Switzerland is a beautiful country, but it’s also centrally located in Europe. This means that many major European cities are reachable in just a few hours.

If you are located in Zurich, for example, then you are very near Germany, France, Italy, Liechtenstein and Austria. In less than five hours, visiting beautiful cities in these five countries is possible by taking a comfortable train ride.

So, select your final destination, get your ticket, and enjoy the ride.

READ ALSO: Switzerland’s ten most beautiful villages you have to visit

From Zurich to Strasbourg

It will take you just about 2 hours and 30 minutes (including time to stop and change trains in Basel) to get from Zurich’s mains station to the beautiful and historical city of Strasbourg, in northeast France.

Prices vary depending on several factors, but we found one-way tickets for just around CHF 23 on a Friday.

From Zurich to Munich

The capital of Bavaria can be reached from Zurich’s central station on a direct train in just 3 hours 30 minutes, allowing for short stays.

Munich may seem quite far away on a map, but the fast trains without stopovers actually make the journey quick and pleasant. We found one-way tickets for around CHF 70 on a Friday trip.

From Zurich to Vaduz

The capital of Liechtenstein is easy to reach in less than 2 hours from the Zurich central station. In fact, some journeys will take just about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The lovely town bordering Switzerland has many tourist attractions, from its pedestrian historical centre to castles and parks. Train ticket prices always vary, but we found tickets for a one-way journey on a Friday costing CHF 20.

READ ALSO: Travel: What are the best night train routes to and from Switzerland?

From Zurich to Milan

Depending on the train you take, you can get from Zurich to Italy’s fashion capital in three to four hours with a direct train.

Before 2016, when the Gotthard Base Tunnel was opened to rail traffic, a trip from Zurich to Milan took an hour longer. It’s possible to find tickets for about CHF 70 for a one-way trip on a Friday.

From Zurich to Innsbruck

From Zurich, it is possible to hop on a direct train and, in just over 3 hours and 30 minutes, arrive in the beautiful town of Innsbruck, in the mountains of Tyrol.

Ticket costs vary, but we found tickets for a relatively short-notice one-way trip on a Friday (without discounts) for CHF 84.

READ ALSO: Five beautiful Swiss villages located near Alpine lakes

Cost:

Fares depend on several factors, such as time of the day and day of the week when you travel.

While a rock-bottom cheap fare may be available one day in the morning, it won’t necessarily be offered the next day (or week) in the afternoon, or vice-versa.

Prices also depend on whether you are entitled to any discounts and which wagon you choose.

If you are interested in travelling farther afield, including with night trains, or if you are in other Swiss cities, these articles provide more information:

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