Flight delay compensation: 5 things you should know
by Craig Goodspeed
Flight delays are very common. If you arrived late at your destination because your flight was delayed, know that you can claim up to €600 in financial compensation, thanks to your Air Passenger Rights.
Flight delay compensation
Under EU Regulation EC 261/2004, you may be entitled to delayed flight compensation.
There are 5 things you should know in order to understand if you are eligible to request flight compensation for your delayed flight.
So, here’s some things you need to know:
1 – Flight delayed by more than 3 hours
First, to be eligible to complain to the airline, your flight must have been delayed by at least 3 hours.
The time that counts is when the plane arrives at its destination, parks and opens its doors. If when this happens the delay is at least 3 hours, then you are well on your way to receiving financial compensation.
What really matters is the arrival time and not the departure time, because sometimes flights depart 3 hours late but make up for the delay time during the flight and are able to land (and open the doors) with less than 3 hours delay. If the arrival delay is 2h59m you will not have the right to demand compensation.
2 – From or to a European airport
Second, whatever your nationality and residence, if your flight took off from an airport located in the EU (regardless of the airline’s country) or departed from outside EU, but landed at an airport in the EU (as long as the airline is headquartered in the EU) that means you meet one more requirement for being able to receive up to €600 in financial compensation for your delayed flight.
In fact, the vast majority of flights in the EU are covered by EC 261/2004. In addition, flights from/to Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, French Guiana and Martinique, Mayotte, Guadeloupe, Saint-Martin, Madeira, Azores and the Canary Islands are also covered by this European regulation.
3 – No extraordinary circumstances
Airlines often justify flight delays under extraordinary circumstances.
Sometimes this is indeed the case, but other times it is just a way for airlines to discourage affected passengers from asking for financial compensation for their inconvenience.
Situations that airlines cannot predict or control, such as adverse weather conditions, medical emergencies, lightning strikes, or strikes of the airport or air traffic control personnel, air traffic control restrictions, acts of sabotage or terrorism, among others, constitute extraordinary circumstances and, in this case, there is no place for the payment of any compensation.
Technical problems, on the other hand, are not considered extraordinary circumstances, since aircraft maintenance is an obligation of the airline.
4 – Missed connecting flight due to the delay of a previous flight
If your connecting flight was missed because the flight that took you to that airport arrived late, you are also entitled to claim financial compensation from the airline responsible for the delay.
No need for a 3-hour delay, this applies even if such delay was a small one (but in aviation, less than 15 minutes is not considered a delay).
Note that both flights must be bought together, included in the same booking. In this way, Courts assume that the airline knew and approved the transit time necessary for you to board the 2nd plane, and still sold you those tickets, so establishing a contractual obligation to transport you under those conditions.
Besides paying you a delay compensation the airline has the obligation to arrange a new connecting flight for you without extra fees and to pay your food and hotel until you arrive to the booking’s final destination (see point 5 bellow).
Everything is provided for in your Air Passenger Rights, under European legislation EC 261/2004 and also the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions
5 – Your right to care does not interfere with your right to receive flight compensation
European law EC 261/2004 and the Montreal Convention says that the airline is obliged to take care of you while you wait for your delayed flight.
Therefore, the airline must provide meals, access to phone calls (yes, you now have a smartphone but did you in 1999 or 2004? ) and emails. If the delay forces you to stay overnight, the airline is also obliged to provide you with accommodation and transportation to and from the airport.
If proven necessary, also things like medicaments, razors, underwear, cleaning services, phone charger, etc. If they don’t, you are free to reasonably select yourself a hotel and restaurants, and later demand a refund to the airline (keep all invoices).
Don’t worry: accepting that the airline gives you food, drink and other things does not interfere with your right to claim financial compensation for your delayed flight.
But beware, don’t sign any kind of agreement without asking an expert.
All these rulings apply automatically, no agreement is necessary, so whatever you sign will not improve your Rights.
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Craig has a big interest and deep knowledge in the Air Passenger’s Rights. He is a frequent traveller and loves to share guides, tutorials and tips to help people make the most of travel.
Claim compensation for your flight delay or cancellation
Each passenger can receive ticket refund + expenses + compensation up to €600.
AIR PASSENGERS RIGHTS eu
According to European regulation CE 261/2004 and other rulings, an air passenger has 3 cumulative rights:
rerouting or refund
They are cumulative and free. The first is automatic, the 2nd is to be settled, the last must be requested.
Airlines are heavily fined if they fail these obligations.
-The care obligation applies after you wait 2 to 4 hours to depart (depends on the flight distance and other details), when you miss a connecting flight in the same booking, your boarding is denied, your ongoing flight is diverted or your canceled flight is rerouted. Terminates with ticket refund or reschedule or upon your final arrival to your destination or, in same cases, back home.
It consists of: food, taxi/bus, hotel and includes reasonable expenses like gilletes, underwear, urgent medicamenta, battery charger, phone calls, etc. If (only if) the airline does not provide this, you can act on your own, keeping all receipts for future refund by the airline.
-The rerouting / refund Right is due upon some types of cancelation (see other section), or after 5 hours departure delay and you asked to leave, or upon earlier initiative of the airline.
Yours is the choice between being refunded or rerouted using the alternative offered by the airline (probably the earliest). In this case, they will pay all care expenses until you reach your destination, unless you refuse their alternative and choose to postpone your flight.
Extra payments shall never be demanded. In case of class downgrade a partial ticket refund is due.
If the trip lost its purpose (example: you go to a concert) you can ask to be delivered back to your original airport at no extra cost and receive refund for the unused flights.
Or you can ask to change the unused flights to another day.
If your booking includes more connected or return flights, these rules apply to all, as a set.
After this right is used, no more “care” is due (as also after arrival to the last destination in the booking).
-The compensation Right applies in case of:
- delays of more than three hours upon arrival,
- cancellations, unless if you were informed more than 14 days before,
- flight misconnections within the same booking
- refusal to board (unless the blame is yours)
and entitle each passenger to a monetary compensation of €250 to €600 (halved in a few situations) in accordance to the flight distance and other criteria, to be paid by the operating airline, the one that supplied the aircraft and crew (sometimes it is not the same airline that sold your ticket, due to codeshare agreements).
For all 3 rights:
-All flights inside the European Union are included. Also other flights operated by EU airlines as long as they depart or arrive to an European airport. If the airline is not European, only flights departing from an EU airport are included.
Obviously, EU laws do not apply to flights starting and ending outside EU, even if the airline is European.
-Besides EU countries, Swiss, Norway and Iceland also adhered to this regulation. Other countries might have similar regulations (Canada, India, USA, Turkey,…) not covered by our services.
-All passengers have these rights, even those that are not EU citizens and/or live outside the EU.
-Children are entitled too unless they travel for free.
-Care and Compensation are due to you, the victim. Ticket refund is usually sent to whom payed the ticket, though the law says it should be paid to the passenger.
-Travel agents and booking companies are out of these obligations. Some try to help passengers however they are very inefficient claiming compensations because this is out of their scope (some forward us those problems).
Many situations are not covered by ruling 261/04 (examples: the opposite of a delay, the advanced flight; multi-flight bookings partially outside EU). Others are not clear (example: “extraordinary circumstances”, “flight distance”, etc). Some posterior rulings and judgments made things clearer, but still there is a lot of controversy about many situations, that airlines try to use to avoid payments.
In case of compensation (not boarding denial, rerouting/refund or care) the 261/2004 ruling exempts the airline from the obligation to pay in special situations like bad weather, union strikes (outside the company), terrorist acts, security issues, air traffic control decisions, and some other not so clear situations.
This allows airlines to reject most claims and require deep expertise to investigate and contest. Frequently, our audit shows that the alleged circumstances are not true and our conclusions are later confirmed in Court or by the aeronautical enforcement body.
These rights can be claimed during the next 2 to 10 years, depending on the country, most usually 3 or 5 years. Try to remember your past flight problems, then claim.
We can check your case, just email us at email@example.com and tell us your story. We will inform your rights and your best solution (no payment, no bureaucracy).
Or you can check yourself here, then file your claim if you wish.
|< 1500 km||250€|
|1500 – 3500 km||400€|
|> 3500km||600€ if 1 airport is not EU
400€ if inside EU
As ruling 261/04 failed to clearly address many points, it is usually accepted (tacitly or forced by posterior judgements) that:
For every 2 hours delay some beverage should be offered to passengers unless it delays the boarding itself.
In case of misconnection the delay is measured upon the final destination and compensation is due only if all flights belong to the same booking.
In such case, distance is measured between first and last airport (but many people consider the total of all legs should be used, other consider the actual flown path because the law says “flight distance”).
Time of arrival is the time of the first opening of an aircraft (passenger) door.
If diverted or rerouted to another airport the passenger must be offered land or air transport to the original destination airport.
Technical problems are not special circumstances outside the control of the airline.
Though not included in ruling 261/04 this situation was addressed and ruled by some Court decisions, being usually accepted that:
When booking, it is the airline’s responsability to allow enough time clearance between 2 flights booked together, so compensation is due even for delays in the 1st flight less than 3 hours, provided the passenger arrives more than 3 hours late after rerouting.
In such case, after rerouting, the final arrival to the last airport is used to compute distance and time delay relative to the original flight, as if all flown flights were only one.
Then all other rules (see above) about flight delay apply.
In case the flight is cancelled, passengers have both these rights:
Reimbursement of the ticket price corresponding to the part of the journey that was not journeyed, as well as the part already journeyed if the purpose of the flight is no longer possible or existent
Free rerouting(not necessarily by air route) as soon as possible or at another time if the passenger prefers, either to the final destination or to the original airport of departure.
Compensation according to the flight distance:
|< 1500 km||250€|
|1500 – 3500 km||400€|
|> 3500km||600€ if 1 airport is not EU
400€ if inside EU
However, if an alternative flight is offered arriving earlier, at the same time or later a few hours, the compensation is halved :
|Distance||Intra CE||Extra CE|
|< 1500 km||< 2 Hours||125€||< 2 Hours||125€|
|1500 – 3000 km||< 3 Hours||200€||< 3 Hours||200€|
|> 3500km||< 3 Hours||200€||< 4 Hours||300€|
Note that this only applies to rerouting in sequence of cancellation, not to delays or other situations.
There are some exceptions. Compensation is not due if :
The cancellation was informed to the passenger 2 weeks or more prior to the flight.
The passenger was informed between 1 and 2 weeks before and was offered alternative flight departing less than 2 hours earlier or arriving no more than 4 hours later compared to the original flight.
The passenger was informed less than 1 week before and the airline provides a flight leaving up to 1 hour earlier and arriving no more than 2 hours later.
Some companies sell more tickets than seats available on the aircraft, in the statistical expectation that some passengers don’t show. Companies also reroute passengers from cancelled and overbooked flights to other flights possibly exceeding seat count, resulting in denial of board.
In case of boarding denial, the passenger is entitled to compensation regardless of the cause.
Usually airlines request voluntary passengers to cede their seats and take a later flight, possibly offering some hotel and/or food vouchers or other incentives. Their offer is probably inferior to the compensation that will then be renounced, so usually your better option is to refuse an agreement and contact us.
Then you will have the compensation, plus the replacement flight, plus food and hotel until you reach your destination.
As the law allows airlines to reject payments in special cases, but failed to clearly specify such conditions, many airlines permanently abuse of this, specially when facing a passenger that claims directly, without support of an expert company like Aireclaim.
This works very well and saves them millions: Airlines just deny compensation based on technical arguments accepted (or not) by the UE laws, then 99% passengers will not be able to verify or contest (as we can). Even if they could, surely they would not enforce their rights (as we would) due to tremendous troubles, required know-how and high lawyer+court expenses.
However there are many legitimate situations, when airlines are not required to pay compensations, named “exceptional circumstances”. They do not apply to your other rights (care and refund/rerouting) and never apply in case of boarding denial.
DO NOT waste your time claiming if any point in this list applies to you (but don’t believe everything the attendants tell you):
- the cause was (and you are sure) bad weather, terrorism, Air Traffic Control or strikes (but not strikes inside the airline).
- the delay upon arrival was less than 3 hours;
- the cancellation was informed to you 2 or more weeks before the scheduled flight;
- your flight to EU departed from a non-EU country and the operating airline (the one that supplied the aircraft and crew) is not based in EU;
- your missed connection flight does not share the same booking with the late flight;
- you arrived late to the gate or missed some documents.
Technical problems are one of the most frequent arguments used by airlines to refuse compensation. That’s because, unlike weather for example, they are very difficult to be contested by the passenger or his lawyer. However we can easily enforce such payments with almost 100% success rate.
Furthermore, please note that airlines have no obligation to refund expenses:
- without proving document;
- after final arrival, including transport to home, or extra parking fee;
- missed hotel, concert, etc that you booked and could not use;
- lost working days or bad image that you suffered in your job;
- unapproved replacement flights in another airline;
- care expenses after you accepted ticket refund or postponed the flight (this is one of the reasons you should not rush claiming to the airline, but get our help instead).
For these kind of expenses we suggest that you check if you have an insurance (credit card, travel assistance, etc).
Ruling 261/2004 does not address these situations because it intends to compensate problems like these, so they would be compensated twice.
Anyway, all legal systems worldwide under certain conditions enforce a redress obligation (usually for 3-6 years) to those who cause prejudices, so you can still claim in Court under common law if you hire a lawyer, though your chances are probably low.
We do not handle the mentioned cases because we are highly specialized on ruling 261/2004. We also do not handle luggage claims.
Do you wanna know more? Contact Us
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