Massive flight cancellations are not to be expected as a result of the air force exercise - but several airports have already announced that they expect delayed flights during the maneuver. © Oliver Berg/dpa/obs
Air forces from more than two dozen countries are practicing emergencies over Germany. This could affect the travel plans of some holidaymakers. What demands do they have in case of problems?
Hanover - Longer flight times, delays and possibly cancellations: The exact effects are not yet foreseeable, but the large air force exercise "Air Defender 23" from June 12 to 23 will affect civil air traffic and consequently also the plans of air travelers.
What rights apply then? Here's an overview:
Delays and flight cancellations - what the airline has to do
In the event of problems as a result of the Air Force exercise, affected travellers can also invoke their passenger rights under the underlying EU regulation.
For example, in the event of a delay of more than two hours, you are entitled to a free meal and a drink at the airport. This is pointed out by the passenger rights portal Flightright.
If there is a delay of two hours for short-haul flights, three hours for medium-haul flights and four hours for long-haul flights, the airline must offer passengers alternative transport to their destination at the "earliest possible time" - for example, by rebooking on another flight. This often happens automatically. Or the airline offers the option of converting the ticket for domestic flights into a train ticket.
If the airline does not offer such a thing on its own, those affected should set a deadline for obtaining the alternative. If it does not comply with the request, travellers could procure replacements themselves and charge the airline for the costs afterwards.
If the passenger opts for alternative transport, the airline is obliged to take care of a hotel room in addition to meals in reasonable proportion to the waiting time and to pay for the transport from the airport there and back again, says travel lawyer Paul Degott from Hanover.
If a flight is delayed by more than five hours, travelers can return the ticket and ask for their money back - they do not have to accept vouchers. Processing fees may also not be retained by the airline.
The question of compensation
In addition to the above-mentioned rights, the EU regulations provide for additional so-called compensation payments of 250, 400 or 600 euros per passenger in the event of delays of three hours or more at the destination or short-term flight cancellations under certain conditions, depending on the flight distance. However, according to travel law experts, the prospects for these payments in the event of cancellations and delayed landings as a result of the air force exercise are rather poor.
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The Luftwaffe maneuver is an extraordinary circumstance that is beyond the airline's control. "If it can then prove that it has done everything reasonable to avoid the consequences of the maneuver for the affected flight or to reduce it, the compensation payments are unfortunately cancelled," says lawyer Degott.
Legal peculiarities of package tours
In the case of package tours, the tour operator is obliged to take care of alternative transport and, if necessary, food and accommodation. So he is the contact person in case of flight problems, not the airline.
If the booked trip is shortened, for example as a result of a flight cancellation, package holidaymakers can insist on a pro rata refund of the travel price, says Degott.
"This is because the tour operator has undertaken in the package travel contract to bring the traveller to his holiday destination on time so that he can start the holiday period he has already paid for there. If this is not possible because the outbound flight is cancelled or delayed, the traveller loses valuable travel time." Whether the organizer was to blame for this or not does not play a role in the reduction of the travel price.
If, on the other hand, it is a question of additional compensation for lost holiday pleasures, the tour operator can refer to the extraordinary circumstances that triggered the flight problems, the travel lawyer continues. So if the air force exercise was the reason for the cancelled flight, the organizer was relieved at that point and no additional compensation could be claimed.
Information obligations of the organizer
In this context, however, Paul Degott points to another approach, which in the end could possibly lead to a claim for damages against the organizer.
This is because tour operators have an "extremely extensive duty to monitor and provide information," the travel lawyer explains, referring to "several BGH rulings" on this topic. Thus, the organizers are now to be expected to observe the development of the maneuver and the announcements in it and to check whether this could affect the start of the vacation of individual travelers.
If this is the case, according to Degott, the BGH has mentioned a "probability of arrival" of 25 percent, the organizer must inform the traveler about the possible impairments in good time before the start of the trip - so that he at least has the option of declaring his withdrawal from the travel contract and then getting the travel price back.
"This makes sense for the traveler, especially if it was a short trip, where there is virtually no net vacation time left due to the flight irregularity, since the return flight day also deducts from the total vacation time," explains the expert.
In summary: If the tour operator culpably violates these information obligations, he is liable for damages, according to Degott. And not because of the manoeuvre itself, but because he did not inform the traveller in a timely manner about the impact of the manoeuvre on the specific travel contract and the flights agreed there.
Bad cards for individual travellers
In the case of individual travel, the general rule is: Holidaymakers are dependent on the goodwill of hotel operators and rental car companies, for example, if they are unable to take advantage of services booked with them due to flight problems. This is because, unlike package tours, these are individually concluded contracts.
This means that if the flight is cancelled, the hotel operator at the holiday destination can still insist on payment for the unused overnight stay(s). After all, he provides his service as booked. The guest is responsible for the journey.
Largest air force exercise since NATO was founded
According to the Luftwaffe, 23 nations with 12 aircraft and 23,25 soldiers are to take part in the "Air Defender 250" exercise from June 10 to June 000 under German leadership. It is the largest deployment exercise of air forces since NATO was founded.
Late at your destination? The Air Force exercise "Air Defender 23" from June 12 may affect civilian flights. © Andreas Arnold/dpa/dpa-tmn
During the two-week operation, three airspaces are to be closed to civil aviation with a time delay from Monday to Friday. According to the Air Force, most of the flights could take place over the North Sea and Baltic Sea. Dpa