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Flight Delay Compensation Guide

Flight delay compensation, woman stood in front of airport departures board showing delays and cancellations

Air travel – What could go wrong?

A quick Flight Delay Compensation Guide. Your rights surrounding compensation for flight delay claims, and how to claim flight delay compensation.

Picture this, for months you and your family have planned for the perfect holiday. Finally, game day has arrived. You have all packed, flip flops, trunks, and snorkel gear, with passports in hand and tickets at the ready. You reach the departing airport and approach the check-in desk. Ready to start your adventure, the glee in your eyes and your excitement slowly turns to dread.

The flashing red words of disappointment solemnly follow your flight number. Delayed or even worse cancelled. Some of you may get to the front of the check-in line and greeted with the kind words of; “I’m sorry we appear to have over-booked your flight. There are no longer any seats available for you and your family. However, the good news is for free of charge we have booked you onto the next flight. That flight departs first thing in the morning.” The above scenarios are rare, and if a delay occurs, the likelihood is that it will be under an hour.

However, in the event of being denied boarding or a delayed/cancelled flight, we have produced a short guide to help.

Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 – Flight Delay Compensation Guide

Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 was created in 2004. The purpose of the regulation is to ensure; amongst other things — a high level of protection for passengers in the field of Air Transport.

The regulation (often criticised as a way for consumers to make a quick buck for short delays), is an excellent tool for consumer protection if used correctly. The regulation gives you not only the right to compensation but also the right to care if a disruption occurs.

Some airlines may not tell you this, so it is worth taking a note.

Denied Boarding

What is Denied Boarding?

Denied boarding, defined within the regulation as, ‘refusal to carry passengers on a flight, although they have paid for the flight and presented themselves for boarding’. If the airline expects that they will need to deny boarding onto a flight (for overbooking). They should first ask for volunteers to give up their seat. If no-one or not enough volunteers come forward, then the airline can choose to deny individuals even against their will.

So which one is better, volunteer or risk being the chosen?

Volunteers can surrender their seats in exchange for benefits, which need agreeing between the individual and the airline. So what are these benefits? Well, anything you want to ask for (but do keep it reasonable). If they don’t make a sensible offer and you subsequently refuse, you no longer count as a volunteer. Therefore, don’t be afraid to be bold. Part of the agreement must be; reimbursement of the cost of the flight, or a rescheduled flight.

If denied boarding against your will, you are automatically entitled to compensation. The airline can only deny you compensation if you are denied boarding for a valid reason.

Are there Valid reasons for being denied boarding?

Yes. You can be denied boarding if the airline believes you have health issues that mean you cannot fly. You can also be denied boarding if you pose a security risk or you have forgotten your documentation required to fly.

If you have not been denied boarding for one of the reasons above you could be due compensation. The levels of compensation are covered below. As well as the compensation you will be entitled to meals and refreshments if the waiting time sufficient.

If the wait for a new flight runs overnight or longer, you are entitled to Hotel accommodation. You will also be entitled to as transport to and from the hotel. In addition to this, you also ‘will be offered two free telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mail access’. In the event of the airline refusing to provide a hotel or food and drink when necessary. You can pay for these yourself and claim the cost back once you get home. If you are forced down this route ensure you keep all receipts if you want to claim this back. Also note, these costs need to be reasonable, so don’t book yourself into a 5-star hotel. And, don’t order the lobster with a side of prosecco then raid the minibar and expect full reimbursement.

Flight delay

What happens if the flight is delayed?

If your flights delayed, you also have the right to refreshments and meals, and a hotel. However, this only applies if the delay is long enough. Your right to care depends on the length of delay, and the distance you are scheduled to travel. These are itemised below:

Meals and refreshments

(a) for two hours or more in the case of flights of 1500 Kilometers or less; or

(b) for three hours or more in the case of all intra-Community flights – defined as “The movement of an aircraft between two EU airports, without any stopovers, which does not start from or end at a non-EU airport.” of more than 1500 Kilometres and all other flights between 1500 and 3500 Kilometres; or

(c) for four hours or more in the case of all flights not falling under (a) or (b),

Hotel Accommodation

(d) if the delay is expected to last into the day after the scheduled time of departure irrelevant of the distance.

Reimbursement of the ticket

(e) When the delay is at least five hours irrelevant of the distance.

Compensation for flight delay

When the delay is at least 3 hours, you will also be entitled to compensation. This depends on why the flight was cancelled; this is shown in more detail further down.

Flight Cancellation

What the rules say here for cancellations is; Your entitlements are pretty much the same as for a delay as identified above. However, there are some points to note regarding flights cancelled long before your scheduled departure date.

The regulation states that you are entitled to compensation unless;

(i) You were informed of the cancellation at least two weeks before the scheduled time of departure; or

(ii) informed of the cancellation between two weeks and seven days before the scheduled time of departure and offered re-routing, allowing you to depart no more than two hours before the scheduled time of departure and to reach your final destination less than four hours after the scheduled time of arrival; or

(iii) you are informed of the cancellation less than seven days before the scheduled time of departure and are offered re-routing, allowing you to depart no more than one hour before the scheduled time of departure and to reach your final destination less than two hours after the scheduled time of arrival.

So, if you are informed of the cancellation more than two weeks before you are due to fly, you are not entitled to compensation.

What constitutes being informed of the cancellation?

If you find yourself at a loss because the airline says you have been informed of the cancellation, but you do not believe this is the case. The burden of proof lies with the airline. They must prove that you were notified about the cancellation.

The notification could be direct to you or through the travel agent that you have booked the flights.

If you were not informed, either by the airline or the travel agent, then compensation will be deemed applicable. If the cancellation disrupts your travel plans, such as a business trip, or a short family visit, you are entitled to either reimbursement or re-routing. Therefore, if you know that the cancellation is going to cause you to miss the purpose of your journey, you can request a refund of the ticket price and look elsewhere.

Flight Delay Compensation Guide

How much compensation can you receive for a flight delay?

The compensation element under the regulation is complicated and separated into four levels, €250, €300, €400 and €600, all on a per passenger basis. As a guide, you can expect:

€250 for all passengers who are delayed over 3 hours and their flight is 1500 kilometres or less (short-haul flights)

€300 for all flights over 3500 kilometres that are not from one EU country to another and the disruption is more than three hours but less than 4. (long haul flights)

€400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres (Medium haul flights)

€600 for all flights over 3500 kilometres that are not from one EU country to another (long haul flights).

Can the airline turn down your flight delay compensation claim?

If you fit into the points above the airline does not have to pay compensation if the disruption was due to an extraordinary circumstance. The circumstance must be one that could not have been avoided if all reasonable measures had been taken. This is where the disputes lie as the definition is to a degree open to interpretation. For an event to be classed as an extraordinary circumstance, the event must not be inherent in the daily activities of the airline or be considered as routine airport services.

Could the airline avoid the reason for disruption?

So if your flight is delayed due to an ‘air traffic control strike’ compensation would not be applicable. However, the airline had an opportunity to avoid the disruption but failed to do so; compensation would be applicable. Virtually all airlines will try to deny compensation if they have any chance to do so. If you feel on the day, that they have not done enough to avoid the disruption. Make sure you take notes of the events and the times. The information you collect can be valuable evidence.

Can you claim compensation for a flight that is delayed due to weather?

The answer is yes, but only in some circumstances. The airline must be able to show that the full length of the delay was solely caused by weather. If the airline contributed to the delay after the extraordinary circumstances have ended, and the length of their contribution is three hours greater than the disruption caused by the extraordinary circumstance. Our Extraordinary circumstances guide will give you the answers you need.

Who can claim delayed flight compensation from an airline?

Anyone can make a claim for delayed flight compensation as long as they fit into the scope of regulation 261/2004.

Scope

1. This Regulation shall apply:

(a) to passengers departing from an airport located in the territory of a Member State to which the Treaty applies;

(b) to passengers departing from an airport located in a third country to an airport situated in the territory of a Member State to which the Treaty applies, unless they received benefits or compensation and were given assistance in that third country, if the operating air carrier of the flight concerned is a Community carrier.

2. Paragraph 1 shall apply on the condition that passengers:

(a) have a confirmed reservation on the flight concerned and, except in the case of cancellation referred to in Article 5, present themselves for check-in,

– as stipulated and at the time indicated in advance and in writing (including by electronic means) by the air carrier, the tour operator or an authorised travel agent,

or, if no time is indicated,

– not later than 45 minutes before the published departure time; or

(b) have been transferred by an air carrier or tour operator from the flight for which they held a reservation to another flight, irrespective of the reason.

3. This Regulation shall not apply to passengers travelling free of charge or at a reduced fare not available directly or indirectly to the public. However, it shall apply to passengers having tickets issued under a frequent flyer programme or other commercial programme by an air carrier or tour operator.

4. This Regulation shall only apply to passengers transported by motorised fixed wing aircraft.

5. This Regulation shall apply to any operating air carrier providing transport to passengers covered by paragraphs 1 and 2. Where an operating air carrier which has no contract with the passenger performs obligations under this Regulation, it shall be regarded as doing so on behalf of the person having a contract with that passenger.

6. This Regulation shall not affect the rights of passengers under Directive 90/314/EEC. This Regulation shall not apply in cases where a package tour is cancelled for reasons other than cancellation of the flight.

Can I make a claim?

You can use our quick claim checker to see if you can claim.

Remember, irrespective of whether compensation is applicable, you are always entitled to refreshments and hotels if appropriate. If you have been affected by any of the above, please feel free to visit our claim page if you require any further assistance. You can also use our claim checker to see if you have a claim

My holiday was cancelled because Thomas cook went bust, can I claim?

If you were affected by the departure of Thomas cook we have completed a guide to help you. To view the guide please click here

We hope our Flight Delay Compensation guide is not needed but if it is we hope this serves you with some helpful tips. If you have any other Disputes and you require help and guidance please see our Civil Litigation page

Making a claim to the airline yourself

Time needed: 15 minutes.

How to make a flight delay compensation claim

  1. Send a Letter of Claim

    The first thing you need to do is send a Letter of Claim to the airline.

  2. Content of the Letter of claim

    The letter of claim should include your Full Name, full address, date of birth and the date that you are sending the letter.

    The letter should be Titled with a clear message such As ‘Letter of claim – Requesting Flight Compensation – Regulation EC 261/2004’

    Include the following for the flight or flights that were disrupted; Flight number, Date of flight, The departure airport, The arrival airport, Booking reference/ticket number and a brief explanation of the events surrounding the disruption.

    You should also include something along the lines of:

    My claim is made on the basis that:

    1. [insert the name of the airline] was the air carrier as defined by Article 2(a) of Regulation (EC) 261/2004.

    2. By contract [Insert the name of the airline] agreed to carry us from [Insert departure airport] to [Insert arrival airport] on [Insert the date of the flight].

    3. I had a confirmed reservation on flight number [Insert the flight number] on the date of [Insert date of flight].

    4. I believe that [Insert the name of the Airline] were the operating air carrier of the said flight as defined by Article 2(b) of the Regulation.

    5. I was unable to travel on the said flight at the scheduled departure time because (insert the correct option) [the said flight was delayed by more than Three hours] [The said flight was cancelled] [I was denied boarding as the said flight was overbooked].

    6. Pursuant to Article 7, 1. and in accordance with the Court of Justice of the European Union decision conjoined cases C-402/07 and C-432/07 Sturgeon v Condor and Bock v Air France. I am requesting that you make an offer for compensation for the appropriate amount for the distance of the said flight as labelled within Article 7, 1. (a) €250, (b) €400 and (c) €600.

    Please acknowledge this letter within 14 days, and respond in full within 28 days from the date of this letter.

    Kind regards

    [your name]

  3. Await a response

    If the airline denies your claim or does not respond please see our main page to see if we can assist you

  4. Making a claim against airlines via Webform

    Some airlines have set up webforms in order to submit a Flight delay compensation claim online. A list of the airlines and where to submit the claims are below.

    Once you have completed the Airlines claim form you should get a confirmation on the screen that it has been submitted. You may also receive a confirmation email.

    If you are having trouble completing these forms please contact us on 01228 739 907 and we will see if we can assist you.

  5. How to make a flight delay compensation claim against Easyjet?

    The link to make a claim directly to Easyjet is below
    https://www.easyjet.com/en/claim/eu261

  6. How to make a flight delay compensation claim against British Airways?

    The link to make a claim against British Airways is below
    https://www.britishairways.com/travel/customerportal/public/en_gb/#/customer-service-portal

  7. How to make a flight delay compensation claim against Virgin?

    The link to make a claim against Virgin is below
    https://my.virginatlantic.com/euclaim

  8. How to make a flight delay compensation claim against Ryanair?

    The link to make a claim against Ryanair is below
    https://eu261compensationclaims.ryanair.com/

  9. How to make a flight delay compensation claim against Emirates?

    The link to make a claim against Emirates is below.
    https://www.emirates.com/uk/english/help/complaint.aspx

  10. How to make a flight delay compensation claim against KLM?

    The link to make a claim against KLM is below.
    https://www.klm.com/travel/gb_en/customer_support/customer_support/refunds_and_compensation/eucompensation.htm

  11. How to make a flight delay compensation claim against Air France?

    The link to make a claim against AircFrance is below.
    https://www.airfrance.co.uk/vlb/ecrm/GB/en/local/core/engine/ecomplaint/InitComplaintAction.do

  12. How long do you need to allow for the airline to respond to my Flight delay compensation claim?

    You will need to allow a minimum of 28 days for the Airline to respond if they do not respond or if they deny your claim.

    Please feel free to contact us through our Claim Page

Frequently asked questions

What is the name of the regulation that governs Flight delay compensation?

The regulation that governs Flight delay compensation is (EC) No 261/2004. The regulation was created in 2004. The purpose of the regulation is to ensure; amongst other things — a high level of protection for passengers in the field of Air Transport.

How many hours do you need to be delayed before you can claim flight delay compensation?

Your flight needs to be delayed greater than three hours at the point of reaching your final destination to be applicable for flight delay compensation. The calculation is based on the scheduled time or arrival vs the actual time of arrival at your final destination.

What event triggers a flight to be classed as Landed when assessing a claim for flight delay compensation?

The concept of ‘arrival time’, which is used to determine the length of the delay to which passengers on a flight have been subjected, refers to the time at which at least one of the doors of the aircraft is opened, the assumption being that, at that moment, the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft. This is as per the decision in Case C‑452/13, Germanwings GmbH v Ronny Henning.

Can an airline deny my claim for flight delay compensation due to extraordinary circumstances?

Yes, the airline can deny your claim due to extraordinary circumstances. For more information about extraordinary circumstances see our Extraordinary circumstances guide.

What is the definition of Extraordinary circumstances for flight delay compensation claims?

An extraordinary circumstance is where the impact of an air traffic management decision in relation to a particular aircraft on a particular day gives rise to a long delay, an overnight delay, or the cancellation of one or more flights by that aircraft, even though all reasonable measures had been taken by the air carrier concerned to avoid the delays or cancellations.

What are examples of Extraordinary circumstances for flight delay compensation claims?

Examples of Extraordinary Circumstances are;
Adverse Weather
Air Traffic Control Strike
Hidden Manufacturing Defects of an aircraft
Bird Strikes
other examples can be seen on our guide to Extraordinary circumstances

How much compensation can you receive for a flight delay?

The compensation element under the regulation is complicated and separated into four levels, €250, €300, €400 and €600, all on a per passenger basis. As a guide, you can expect:

€250 for all passengers who are delayed over 3 hours and their flight is 1500 kilometres or less (short-haul flights)

€300 for all flights over 3500 kilometres that are not from one EU country to another and the disruption is more than three hours but less than 4. (long haul flights)

€400 for all intra-Community flights of more than 1500 kilometres, and for all other flights between 1500 and 3500 kilometres (Medium haul flights) and,

€600 for all flights over 3500 kilometres that are not from one EU country to another (long haul flights).

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