EU Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, entitles air passengers to some compensation from the airline in certain cases and defends air passenger rights by establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of overbooking or denied boarding, delayed or cancelled flight, lost or damaged luggage, etc. This regulation in applicable in Bulgaria in many different cases.
According to Regulation 261/2004, in case of a flight cancellation or denied boarding, passenger shall receive compensation amounting to:
- EUR 250 for all flights of 1500 kilometers or less
- EUR 400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometers, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometers
- EUR 600 for all other flights
Air carriers shall not pay compensation if they can prove that the cancellation is caused due to unavoidable extraordinary circumstances. The burden to prove the existence of such insurmountable circumstances shall be borne by the air carrier itself.
Bulgarian courts have jurisdiction to review your flight compensation claim, when:
- The flight started in Bulgaria
- The flight is operated by Bulgarian airline and the flight started from Bulgaria or arrives to Bulgaria (if flight arrives from a non-EU country, exceptions are possible)
If you have cases which fall into any of the above categories and if you do not feel like claiming on your own, you can assign a Bulgarian lawyer specialized in flight compensation claims to do it on your behalf. There are also companies specialized in helping air passengers get their compensations, however using the services of a lawyer is recommended, because for example only a lawyer can represent your legal interests in court. In fact, it is a common practice these claim management companies to hire Bulgarian lawyers as their local sub-contractors to prepare and file claims and to represent clients in any court or debt collection proceedings. It is worth mentioning that all lawyer and other associated fees (for translations, etc.) are awarded by Bulgarian courts and debt collections agents (bailiffs) and are put on debtor’s account, so that the passenger will in the end get the whole amount of the compensation with no deductions.
Bulgarian legal system allows 3 most common scenarios in flight compensation cases:
- Out-of-court settlements. Local Bulgarian lawyers can get in touch with Bulgarian air carriers and negotiate out-of-court settlements, according to which the debtor usually pays passengers compensation in less than a month.
- Straightforward debt collection in Bulgaria. This option is applicable in cases when the passenger or his representative has obtained a foreign court judgment which is directly enforceable in Bulgaria under EU Regulation 261/2004. For example, if a citizen of the Netherlands has sued a Bulgarian airline in a Dutch court, then this Dutch court judgement can be enforced in Bulgaria by a Bulgarian bailiff (debt collection agent), usually with the help of a local Bulgarian lawyer whose fee is added on top the amount due under the court judgment (i.e. in the end the lawyer’s fee is paid by the debtor). In this case Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters is also applicable.
- Summary court proceedings. This is a fast court procedure under Bulgarian Civil Procedure Code which usually takes up to a couple of months for obtaining a judgment and an enforcement order against the air carrier. This is a standard option in cases where no legal action against the air carrier has even been sought by the passenger.
Clients and partners of Trifonov Law Offices ask us questions related to the fact that on 23.02.2021 the Bulgarian National Assembly adopted the new changes on the Bulgarian Civil Aviation Act. These amendments bring 2 main changes:
- Claims can be laid down before Bulgarian courts not later than 1 year after a flight has been cancelled, etc. However, this term is applicable only if the claim is filed for the very first time in Bulgaria. Even after 1 year has passed a claim can still be filed in another EU country where the time limit may be different, according to the local national legislation in force. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you already have a court judgment (no matter whether issued in Bulgaria or abroad), the time limit in Bulgaria for debt collection of the amounts awarded by (Bulgarian, EU or other) court is always 5 years.
- The other significant change is the requirement of POAs signed by passengers to be notarized, unless the POA is signed in favour of a lawyer – in which case both simple non-notarized authorization in writing as well as e-signed POAs are acceptable).