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Understanding EU Flight Delay Compensation and How to Qualify

how-to-qualify-for-eu261

Frequent flyers know that if you fly enough, you’re bound to end up experiencing flight delays, cancellations, and overbookings that can wreak havoc on your travel plans and stress levels. Beyond being a nuisance, you may actually be entitled to compensation.

Said compensation can be up to €600 per passenger under EU flight delay compensation law EU261/2004. Also known as European flight delay or cancellation rights, EU261 protects passengers. Regardless of nationality, passengers that experience flight delays, cancellations and overbookings on EU carriers and EU flights are protected.

However, before you celebrate your European flight cancellation compensation by booking a trip to somewhere exotic and tropical, there’s a long list of conditions you’ll need to meet. In order to be compensated, you’ll also have to deal with the airline directly to collect your award. Unfortunately, the airlines aren’t the most forthcoming with this information, and they do their best to confuse your rights with meaningless perks and travel “upgrades.” What’s worse, if you accept them, you’ll waive your right to your entitled compensation.

What is EU261?

Passed in 2004, EU261 protects all passengers with a valid ticket and booking confirmation flying from an EU airport or to an EU airport on an EU carrier. Additionally, you’ll need to be present and checked in at the airport prior to your flight’s departure. Any promotional or discounted tickets like frequent flyer miles tickets can be included.

Whatever your reason for travelling, EU261 protects you regardless of the cost of your ticket, any connecting flights or where you’re travelling to or from. The only thing to remember is to meet the EU airport and carrier requirements.

EU261 Flight Delay Compensation

Just because your flight departed five minutes later than scheduled doesn’t mean you’re entitled to €600 under EU261’s late flight compensation. In fact, under EU regulation, flight delays are only considered significant if they’re longer than three hours for shorter flights. This specific delay refers to the arrival delay, not the takeoff delay. So if your flight makes up for any lost time while in the air, you may not qualify under EU261 flight delay rights.

Additionally, a qualifying delay also depends on the distance of your flight. For a three-hour delay, this distance of your flight must be less than 1500km. If you’re delayed for three hours the distance of your flight needs to be between 1500km and 3500km. If there is a four-hour delay, the distance of your flight must be longer than 3500km. Furthermore, any delay of more than five hours means you’re entitled to a full refund of your ticket.

There are also additional stipulations if your flight is delayed to the next day. Things like hotel accommodations or reimbursement, and rental vehicle booking can be considered. For most flights, you’ll fall into one of three buckets depending on your flight distance.

  • A three-hour delay on a sub-1500km flight is entitled to €250
  • A three-hour delay on a 1500km to 3500km flight is entitled to €400
  • A four-hour delay on a flight longer than 3500km is entitled to €600

The good thing is that compensation is cumulative. This means if you are on a delayed 2000km flight and miss a 4000km connecting flight, you can get compensated for each flight separately if the airline is unable to put you on another flight in the four-hour time window for 3500km-plus flights.

EU261 Flight Cancellation Rights

If your flight was cancelled, overbooked or you were otherwise denied travel, your exact EU261 compensation, again, depends on the type of flight.

  • Short flights under 1500km are compensated at €250 per person.
  • Medium flights of 1500km to 3500km are compensated at €400.
  • And long flights over 3500km are compensated at €600.

However, when a flight is cancelled due to weather, your rights are not necessarily covered under EU261. That’s because the law makes exceptions for “extraordinary circumstances.” These can be poor weather, air traffic control delays and other personnel issues such as external strikes, political turmoil and general instability that can be out of the airlines’ control.

On the other hand, mechanical issues, poor planning, overbooking and other instances that are under the airline’s control are covered under EU261. But distinctions can be tricky, so it makes sense in most cases to file a claim even if you’re unsure if your trip qualifies.

How to Make a Claim for a Delayed Flight

If you have reason to believe a recent EU flight qualifies under EU261, you’ll still have to make a claim with the offending airline. To make matters more confusing, each airline has a different protocol and set of hoops you’ll have to jump through before they’ll award you your compensation. Some airlines will offer vouchers or other meaningless bits instead of true EU261 compensation, and it could be worth just a fraction of your full claim. Make sure to have documentation and proof of your flight or your claim could be denied for something frivolous.

We say don’t leave it up to chance and spend countless hours, days and weeks to retrieve the money you’re rightfully owed. Here at FlightRefund.com, we collect all the necessary materials and file a claim on your behalf so you can go about your busy day. We’ll file, negotiate and collect your rightfully owed compensation for a small fee, and we’ll never ask you to pay anything out of pocket. If we’re unsuccessful, you’ll pay nothing. We’re always here to help you file future claims without the runaround and confusion of dealing directly with the airline.

So what do you have to lose? Call or click to see how TravelRefund can help you today.