Failures due to snow and ice: When’s your money back?

Berlin / Kempten – When ice and snow limit operations at train stations and airports, many travelers are waiting for it. Because often such a onset of winter has a number of cancellations and delays of trains and flights.


Image: Woman with cap and knit sweater in the snow 

Therefore, affected passengers should check whether they are entitled to compensation under the EU passenger rights legislation. The most important questions and answers at a glance:

What rights do railway customers have?

How much money train customers get back depends on the extent of their delay. If trains fail without replacement, those affected will receive a full refund of the ticket price. If a train is considerably delayed or if passengers with a substitute connection arrive late after a breakdown, the train must refund part of the ticket price.

25 percent of the fare is available from 60 minutes late, 50 percent from 120 minutes. Decisive for the calculation is the arrival time at the destination, not the departure time at the entry point. Travelers can apply for the reimbursement in the Bahn travel centers, in DB agencies and on the Internet using the passenger rights form. The argument that a storm is force majeure and that Deutsche Bahn and other providers do not have to pay does not apply. This was decided by the European Court of Justice (ECJ, case C-509/11).

What rights do passengers have?

If a flight has been delayed by at least three hours or if it has been canceled, passengers are entitled to compensation according to the EU passenger rights regulation – depending on the route, this is 250, 400 or 600 euros. However, this right to compensation does not apply if “exceptional circumstances” such as a severe storm have led to the flight cancellation. “The EU passenger rights regulation is always based on the burden of proof of exceptional circumstances by the airline,” explains the travel lawyer Prof. Ernst Führich.

If the airline was not sufficiently prepared for a foreseeable weather, the customer has a claim for compensation, says the expert. For example, if the company did not have enough de-icing fluid in stock, that would be attributable to the airline. “However, it is disputed in the courts whether a lack of snow removal can be attributed to the airline or this is the task of the operator of the airport,” explains Führich.

After a delay or a flight failure, sufferers should first contact the airline. If no satisfactory answer, Führich recommends a complaint with the arbitration body for public transport, SOEP. For airlines from Germany, there is also the Arbitration Board for Air Traffic at the Federal Department of Justice.

The bodies check for free whether the customer has a refund claim. The result is not binding. “If the airline does not want to pay, even though the arbitration board has established a claim, we recommend going to the lawyer,” says Führich.