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Flight Delay Rights

Delayed flights cause major problems for travellers all over the world. Nearly 25 percent of flights from the UK were delayed by 15 minutes or more in 2018. For frequent travellers, or those who are counting on a connecting flight, delays become even more of a hassle. That’s why the EU signed European Regulation EC 261/04 into law. It was intended to create a system of accessible compensation for flight delays or cancellations, and it continues to keep airlines honest.

What Rights Do I Have When My Flight Is Delayed?

If your flight is delayed more than 3 hours, you could be entitled to airline delay compensation up to €600.

In the event that you are forced to wait for your flight, airlines are required to inform you of other flight delay rights as well, such as:

  • Food and beverages within the airport as you wait. The amount depends on the length of the flight.
  • Lodging and transportation to and from the airport if you’re required to wait overnight due to the delay.

These flight delay rights take effect after only 2 hours, so even if you may not qualify for compensation for a 3-hour or longer delay, you may still be entitled to refreshments and accommodation. Just make sure to contact the airline or visit the ticket counter at your gate.

If your flight is delayed more than 5 hours, you can choose not to take the flight. The airline must then do one of the following:

  • Refund the cost of your ticket
  • Arrange alternative transportation, such as rail
  • Provide a transfer back to your original departure point (for delayed connecting flights)

Do I Qualify for Airline Delay Compensation?

Your flight delay rights depend on fulfilling a few simple criteria. Use the following checklist to determine if you’re eligible.

  • Your flight either takes off or lands in the EU.
  • The airline is based in the EU.
  • You have a valid ticket and a booking confirmation.
  • Your flight is delayed 3 hours or more.

Whether or not you are eligible for late flight compensation is calculated based on the time of arrival at your destination airport and not the time of departure. That means your flight delay must cause you to arrive at your destination at least 3 hours later than planned.

What does “arrival” mean? Your plane has arrived when it opens at least one of its doors. Check your watch! If you’re at least 3 hours later than your original expected arrival time, you could be entitled to airline delay compensation.

Passengers should be aware that their flight delay rights only apply if the inconvenience is caused by something that is within the airline’s control. This is the “extraordinary circumstances” clause, and we’ll discuss it more below.

How Much Compensation Am I Owed for a Delayed Flight?

Once you determine you meet all the criteria, the next step is to calculate your payout. Compensation payouts range from €250–600. The total amount of late flight compensation you are owed depends on the length of your journey and for how long you were delayed, rather than how much the ticket cost. Take a look at the chart below to determine how much you could collect.

  • Short distance flight delays (anything below1500km of travel), call for compensation of €250.
  • Medium distance flight delays (between 1500km and 3500km) points toward passengers being due €400 in compensation.
  • Long distance flight delays (anything over 3500km) calls for compensation of €600 per passenger.
Delay to your arrival
Flight distance
3 hours or more
Less than 1,500km
€ 250
Between 1,500km and 3,500km
More than 1,500km and within the EU
3-4 hours
More than 3,500km, between an EU and non-EU airport
4 hours or more
More than 3,500km, between an EU and non-EU airport

What Are Extraordinary Circumstances for Delayed Flights?

As mentioned, passengers only receive compensation if the reason for the delay was within the airline’s control. Mechanical and maintenance issues are one of the most common reasons that passengers are able to exercise their flight delay rights, as these are within the airline’s control.

Staffing problems or staff shortages may also fall within the airline’s control, so if your flight is delayed because the airline needs to wait for a qualified pilot or more flight attendants, this will trigger late flight compensation.

On the other hand, plane delay compensation does not apply if there were “extraordinary circumstances.” This includes anything that is not within the airline’s control.

For example, poor weather conditions that prevent takeoff are a very common cause of delays – but you won’t be able to exercise your flight delay rights in this case. Other extraordinary circumstances include:

  • Birds fly into the engines
  • Political instability
  • Employee strikes
  • Airport or airspace closures

TravelRefund Fights for Your Late Flight Compensation

When considering going after compensation, be aware that airlines might slow things down and go the evasive route. This is why it’s always important to be aware of your flight delay rights and to ask the airline for the cause of the delay at the time it is happening. This makes it harder for airlines to claim extraordinary circumstances if that is not the case.

Hiring an expert is always a smart way to go. TravelRefund’s mission is to help smooth your path to compensation. As soon as your claim is filed with us, we will contact the airline on your behalf and make the compensation claim. We handle every aspect of communication – which can be a detailed and lengthy process.

Our team understands and anticipates the excuses that airlines lean on when faced with an airline delay compensation claim. But they are expected to pay up if the airline was responsible for the delay, and our legal experts will fight so that your claim proves to be beneficial.

We always treat your plane delay compensation case as “no cure, no pay.” If you do not receive compensation, you will not pay.

Easily make a flight delay claim by filling out our online form and we will review the case, free of charge. Not sure if you qualify? You can always contact us for questions. We’re happy to help.