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EU261 is a resolution passed by the European Union back in 2005, laying out a specific formula for compensation for passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled.
EU261 is applicable for any carrier flagshipped in the European Union OR if you are flying from the European Union OR if you are flying TO the European Union (but only on an EU-based carrier). In my case, we were flying to Athens (via Zurich) on Swiss Airlines, so I qualified for EU261 compensation on both counts
In my case, because my flight was 3931 miles (6326 kilometers), my flight is considered a “Level 3” flight, and so the EU261 compensation is at the highest level. As I understand it, a Level 3 flight that was canceled or delayed more than 4 hours is subject to €600 per person.
While there are plenty of I have had decent luck with filing EU261 compensation claims
Is Switzerland a part of the EU?
Switzerland is actually NOT a part of the European Union, at least at the writing of this post. However, they are a part of the European Free Trade Association as well as a member of the Schengen Area, meaning that you don’t have to clear through customs and immigration if you’re flying from an EU member state. Switzerland / Swiss Airlines has ALSO voluntarily agreed to be bound by the EU261 compensation law
Though one word of warning with filing an EU261 claim with Switzerland is that there are plenty of reports of Swiss being stingy with their EU261 compensation
My EU261 claim with Swiss Airlines
My son and I were scheduled to fly JFK-ZRH-ATH on a Wednesday evening. We arrived to New York on Tuesday night (the day before) on Frontier (SEE: How to get good seats on Frontier for free), and as soon as we arrived, our flight had been canceled.
There was an impending snowstorm coming in, and the inbound ZRH-JFK flight had been canceled, so there was not an aircraft to fly us back to Zurich.
We were rerouted through London on AA and BA and ended up getting to Athens just over 4 hours (a magic time!) after our originally scheduled arrival.
While weather is not considered a valid EU261 compensationreason, I think there’s an argument to be made that it was not actually weather that caused the delay – but the fact that Swiss did not have sufficient aircraft to take us from JFK (plenty of flights were able to fly out of JFK on Wednesday)
Where to submit an EU261 claim for Swiss / Switzerland?
So even though I don’t think I have as big of a slam dunk case as I did when I filed against Aer Lingus (eventually getting the full 1200 Euros compensation), I plan on filing. The real question with these claims is where to submit your EU261 claim for Swiss Airlines / Switzerland. If you file with the airline directly, they are likely to just automatically deny your claim
As I’ve mentioned before, the best way to do it is to just find the national enforcement body for the country in question. Here is the PDF from the European Commission website
For Switzerland, it is the Federal Office of Civil Aviation. Googling that, leads us to this EU261 online form for passengers for Switzerland. I’ve filled it out and sent it in and we shall see!