European Court Rules Babies Can Receive Compensation For Delayed Flights, Too

Apr 9, 2017

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I’ve taken many flights with my two young children, fully maximizing their time as lap infants, but most frequent travelers know that not every flight is a perfect execution from point A to point B — there are bound to be some hiccups from time to time. And while delays and cancellations can sometimes be inevitable, it shouldn’t necessarily put a damper on your family trip. There are often rules in place for when airlines are required to offer appropriate compensation for delayed or cancelled flights, such as European regulation EC 261/2004 — if a flight originating in the European Union is delayed by three or more hours and isn’t the result of extraordinary circumstances, serious financial compensation is due to passengers.

According to The Telegraph, a RyanAir flight back in 2015 was delayed nine hours and the carrier refused to issue the appropriate amount of EU261 compensation for a six-month old lap infant. However, a ruling by a European court recently deemed that the airline is in fact responsible for compensating everyone who’s on a delayed flight, even lap infants not occupying a seat. In other words, babies are considered to be passengers on a flight and are entitled to receive the same compensation as their fellow adult travelers.

While RyanAir is certainly not thrilled with the outcome of the case, I wholeheartedly agree with Judge Pearce, who said the following during his ruling:

“Many passengers in many situations (for example, on buses and trains) travel without having a seat. They are nonetheless passengers for that, and I can see no justification for restricting the meaning of the word in this one situation to exclude those without their own seat.”

I’ve never experienced a flight delay originating from the EU when traveling with my lap children that would qualify us for this type of compensation, but I have certainly dealt with inconsistency across the board when it comes to receiving it regarding other issues. On a recent United flight from St. Maarten (SXM) to Newark (EWR) that resulted in a multi-hour tarmac delay and a lost stroller, the customer service representative was sympathetic and issued compensation for all four of us including my lap infant daughter because she was indeed a ticketed passenger, sans her own seat. However, the following month, United preemptively called us during our family trip to Cancun and asked if we’d be willing to take an earlier flight home in exchange for a $200 voucher per person — yet I was denied a voucher for my daughter since she was “only a lap infant.”

If you're ever on a flight originating in the EU and traveling with a lap infant, you and your child can now be compensated for delays more than three hours.
Now, lap infants can also be compensated for delays in some cases. Image by the author.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had issues with airlines defining what a “passenger” is, so I am really thrilled that this RyanAir case is a step in the right direction. Hopefully other airlines out there will take note. When it comes to the debate about lap babies being considered passengers, I definitely understand the valid points on both sides of the argument. Personally, I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to exclude a person as a “passenger” just because of their age, especially when often times a ticket is required for lap children, even if parents are only paying a small percentage (often 10%) of the ticket fare, plus taxes and fees for them to fly.

Have you ever received — or been denied — compensation for your lap child during a massive flight delay? Tell us about your experience, below.

Angelina Aucello covers family travel for TPG and writes the popular blog, Angelina Travels. Follow along with all her travel adventures on Twitter and Instagram.

Featured image courtesy of Klaus Vedfelt via Getty Images.

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