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TRAVEL NEWS

Reader question: Can I be compensated in Switzerland if I am denied boarding?

As chaos prevails at many airports and a number of airlines, including in Switzerland, are cancelling some flights, questions about passenger rights are very timely.

Reader question: Can I be compensated in Switzerland if I am denied boarding?
If you are denied boarding because of airline error, you may be eligible for compensation. Photo by Eitan ABRAMOVICH / AFP

This summer has been rife with all kinds of travel disruptions, whether due to strikes or ground and air staff shortages.

And even more mayhem is expected at Swiss airports, as elsewhere, before the holiday season is over.

When that happens, European law, which also applies to Switzerland, sets conditions for passenger compensation.

READ MORE:  Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

But what, if any, compensation are you entitled to if you hold a valid ticket, the flight is not cancelled, but you are denied boarding at a Swiss airport?

The answer to this question depends on the reason why you are not allowed to board.

If it is because the flight is overbooked — that is, the airline sold more tickets than it has seats, which is a pretty common practice — then you are definitely entitled to be compensated.

What can you expect to get?

According to the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), the airline must offer you the choice between reimbursement of the ticket price or re-booking you on another flight to your destination.

You are also entitled to be compensated for your inconvenience to the tune of:

  • 250 euros for flights with a distance of up to 1,500 kilometres
  • 400 euros for flights with a distance of between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres
  • 600 euros for flights with a distance of more than 3,500 kilometres

Additionally, the airline must offer you meals and beverages “in reasonable relation to the waiting time”, FOCA says.

“If your onward flight is delayed until the next day, the airline is required to offer hotel accommodation (including transport) if necessary. It also has to offer you telecommunication facilities”.

In the event the airline has not fulfilled the obligations listed above, you can file a complaint with FOCA by filling out this form and emailing it to  [email protected]

Again, this only concerns departures from one of the Swiss airports — Zurich, Geneva, or Basel.

What if you are denied boarding for other reasons?

The airline may have legitimate grounds for refusing to let you fly, in which case you are not entitled to any compensation from them.

For instance, if you arrive late at the airport check-in or at the departure gate, or if you don’t have all the required travel documents, you can be denied boarding. In such cases you can’t claim any settlement, because the fault is yours, not the airline’s.

Also, if you get aggressive with the airport or airline staff and security services are called in, you will not fly and may even be fined for your misconduct.

A more common reason for denied boarding these days is that you test positive to Covid just before you travel.

If this happens, don’t expect the airline to compensate you. However, if you have travel insurance which doesn’t exclude coronavirus from its coverage, then you could get a refund for the missed flight.

READ MORE: What you should know before you travel abroad from Switzerland

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RESIDENCY PERMITS

Reader question: How can I bring my family to live with me in Switzerland?

Family reunification can be tricky in Switzerland, depending on where you and your family are from. Here is what you need to know.

Reader question: How can I bring my family to live with me in Switzerland?

If you live in Switzerland, you might want to bring your family from abroad to live with you. However, this will not be possible in every case, as the rules for family reunification vary broadly depending on where you and your family are from and how closely related you are.

Family reunification might not be a given right for those living in Switzerland on a permit. Instead, it may be a possibility left to the discretion of the authorities. Unlike those on a B permit (residence permit), people in Switzerland on a C permit (settlement permit), for example, don’t necessarily have a right to bring their family.

READ ALSO: Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Additionally, you can’t bring just any family members to Switzerland. Who you are allowed to bring, and under what circumstances, will depend on your nationality.

For Swiss citizens

If the person living in Switzerland is a Swiss citizen, they are allowed to bring their spouse or registered partner, any children and grandchildren under the age of 18 (or 21 or dependent if the child comes from an EU/EFTA country), your dependent parents and grandparents if they come from an EU/EFTA country.

For citizens of an EU/EFTA country

Citizens of the European Union or an EFTA country can bring a spouse or registered partner, any children or grandchildren under the age of 21 (or dependent), and any dependent parents or grandparents.

For citizens from a third country

Citizens from a third country such as the US, Canada, Brazil, the UK, South Africa or Australia, for example, are only allowed to bring a spouse or registered partner and children under the age of 18.

How to bring them?

It’s important to mention that there are time limits to applying for family reunification. In general, people have five years to apply for family reunification, but only one year if the application is for children over 12 years old. The Swiss government says it is “so that they can integrate more rapidly into Swiss society”.

READ ALSO: What is the EU’s ‘single permit’ for third-country nationals and can I get one?

There are several other conditions that need to be met. For example, you need to prove the relationship to the person you want to bring, and you need to have a large enough accommodation to house the whole family.

Additionally, those who are self-employed or unemployed need to show proof of sufficient financial resources.

The family members need a valid identity card or passport, a visa (if necessary), and a certificate proving the relationship and proving they are dependents (if required). In addition, a spouse needs to show proof of A1 language or a certificate of enrolment in a language course of the area where they apply for the permit.

The application must be made with the immigration authority in your canton, who may ask for extra documents or further information.

READ ALSO: How long can I stay out of Switzerland and keep my residency rights?

If the application is accepted, the family members will receive a residence permit – the exact type depends on the person in Switzerland’s status. The family will be allowed to work in Switzerland unless they are parents or grandparents.

Children are required to attend free compulsory schooling at least until the age of 16 and all family members need to have a Swiss health insurance.

Each canton may have its own particular rules and minor differences in status and documents may lead to different outcomes depending on the case. Therefore, don’t forget to check with your cantonal immigration authority what applies to your particular case.

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