“Train is canceled” – this is the banner that many people are seeing at the train station these days. Instead of arriving relaxed at their destination, they remain stressed at the train track. Storm Zoltan has Germany firmly in its grip shortly before Christmas and is making the journey to the festival unexpectedly complicated for some people. We'll give you an overview of what rights you have if trains and planes are canceled because of the weather - and what alternatives there are.
If the booked train is canceled or if there is an expected delay of at least 20 minutes at the destination, the train connection with Deutsche Bahn will no longer apply. This means that passengers can then take any train that takes them to their destination. However, since the winter chaos means that many ICE connections have been canceled, it is also worth looking into regional trains. They often take longer, but are more reliable when in doubt. If there is a delay of at least one hour, passengers can request a (partial) refund of their fare on the Deutsche Bahn website. However, train drivers shouldn't necessarily hope for compensation, because since the reform of passenger rights in the summer, cancellations due to extreme weather conditions have been ruled out. However, an autumn storm could still occur within the scope of the compensation conditions - that is ultimately a question of interpretation.
If the train is expected to arrive at the destination at least an hour late or is canceled completely, passengers have the option of switching to alternative transport. If there are no other trains running in the desired direction due to the storm, it could also be a taxi. However, you should proceed carefully here and check beforehand whether Deutsche Bahn really does not offer any other alternatives. For example, at the service counter in the train station you can find out which routes lead to your destination. If the only option left is a taxi, receipts are important in order to be able to apply for a refund. The same applies to a hotel room if you are stranded at the train station and neither the destination nor the starting point of your trip can be reached on the same day.
If there is a delay of five hours or more or if the flight is canceled, passengers have the right to appropriate alternative transport. Alternatively, passengers can request a timely refund of the flight price. Apart from that, you have the right to assistance at the airport if you are stuck there for more than two hours. This includes drinks and meals and, depending on the time of day and expected delay, also an overnight stay in the hotel. Passengers can assert their rights via their airline or, in the case of a booked package holiday, via their tour operator.
According to the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation, it depends on the exact cause. If the plane is canceled or delayed solely due to adverse circumstances - including the snow chaos of the last few days - then passengers have no right to compensation from the airline. However, it is also possible that the airline is at least partially responsible for the failure itself - for example due to too little antifreeze or de-icing the aircraft too slowly. So it's important to follow up carefully here. Depending on the waiting time, passengers have the right to compensation of up to 600 euros.
Winter often presents commuters with one or two challenges. As soon as a snow shower or storm approaches, you should prepare to look for alternatives to the usual train or flight so that you don't end up standing in the storm without a plan. It is often worth taking a look at local public transport and finding alternative connections, because if express trains are canceled, other trains are often still running. Long-distance buses may also have an easier time on the cleared roads than Deutsche Bahn or airlines.
In this article you can find out about the current situation surrounding Storm Zoltan.