How to Claim Compensation for a Delayed Flight
Simply knowing how to claim compensation for a delayed flight doesn’t meant it’s easy. The truth is that within Europe you have very good air passenger rights. In fact, the amount of compensation you can receive for a delayed flight is generous (up to €600). The problem is knowing how to get your money from the airline without unnecessary hassle.
But you’ve come to the right place.
Unfortunately the airlines won’t always be upfront about how to claim compensation for a delayed flight. And sometimes they’re even a little bit sneaky. For example they’ll offer delayed passengers like yourself vouchers for food and drinks, but in accepting and signing for them, you’re effectively waiving your right to full compensation. Naughty.
How to claim EU flight delay compensation
So we’ll cut right to the chase. You’re on this page because you’ve been delayed. You’re frustrated, angry and entitled to compensation. We’re here to help. Our team of trusted legal industry experts have done this for approximately three million people in over 20 countries over the past few years. Our success rate should the claim go to court is 98%, and if we can’t get your compensation for you, you don’t pay a thing.
Tap the link below, enter the flight details and we’ll tell you right away if your flight qualifies. The rest of the article deals with the nitty-gritty details of flight delay compensation, but the quick and easy answer to your question is right here.
We can tell you in a matter of minutes whether you are entitled to cash compensation or not. Simply enter your flight details into our specially designed compensation calculator. It analyses hundreds of thousands of flight movements and weather data and verifies in detail whether the air passenger rights regulation applies. We will provide you with an immediate initial evaluation free-of-charge.
When can I claim compensation for a flight delay?
The number one piece of criteria is that the flight must be delayed by more than three hours at destination. Sometimes the flight will take off three hours late, but make up the time in the air. So for the purpose of a claim, the arrival time is not when the wheels touch down on the runway, but when the plane is parked at the gate and the door is open.
Does this only apply to European flights?
Most routes within Europe are covered, including Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the so-called “outermost regions” (French Guiana and Martinique, Mayotte, Guadeloupe and La Réunion, Saint-Martin, Madeira and the Azores, and the Canary Islands).
Lots of international flights are also covered. Basically, if your flight is leaving from an airport in the EU, you’re covered. You’re also covered for flight delay compensation if you’re flying on an EU airline from outside the EU but the destination is inside. This simple chart sums it up:
The law that entitles you to compensation is called Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004. We use EC 261 for short. It’s a European Law that requires airlines to compensate passengers for lengthy flight delays, cancellations, and in situations where they are denied boarding.
Extraordinary circumstances are not covered
Sometimes, bad stuff happens that’s out of the control of the airlines and it’s not their fault. These situations include things like lightning strikes, medical emergencies, labour strikes, really bad weather, airport equipment malfunctioning, acts of sabotage, political unrest, terrorism… you get the picture.
But not-so-extraordinary circumstances should be covered
Airlines sometimes cite generic “technical difficulties” or “operational circumstances” as reasons for delays. The good news is that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has confirmed that those don’t qualify. Perhaps the airlines use them as a deterrent against claims, but they’re not sufficient reasons to relieve an airline of its obligations to you under EC 261.
Here’s a quick summary. You are entitled to cash compensation if..
- You arrive at your destination more than three hours later than planned.
- You have checked in for your flight on time (generally no less than 45 minutes before departure).
- You encountered these problems on a flight operated no more than three years ago.
- The airline is responsible for the delay (e.g. technical fault or sick crew).
- The flight took off in the EU (from any airline) or landed in the EU (provided that the airline is headquartered in the EU).
And here’s a checklist you can save to your phone:
How does filing a claim with AirHelp work?
First, we check your flight details to see if your delay qualifies. We look at factors like the weather and technical issues to determine if, and how much, you could qualify for in compensation.
Next, you give us the OK to fight on your behalf, and we legally represent you in your case against the airline. Some claims are very quick, and we send you updates throughout the process.
Lastly, and most importantly, you get paid. We appreciate speed matters, so AirHelp offers several payment methods to receive your compensation claim in a way that’s convenient for you.
Are there any other rights that come with EC 261?
Right to reimbursement or rerouting
In addition to compensation for your loss of time, if your delay exceeds five hours, you are entitled to a full or partial refund of your original ticket and a return flight to your point of departure, if needed.
Right to care
When you’re stuck waiting for the airline to get you back on track toward your destination, you’re entitled to a number of free perks, depending on your flight details. The carrier must provide you with meals and refreshments during the delay as well as access to communications, including two telephone calls, telex or fax messages, and emails.
But here’s the problem with flight delay vouchers
Flight delay vouchers are not what they seem. And of course when you’re tired and hungry and someone is offering you a voucher for free pizza, it’s very hard to say ‘no’.
However the regulations clearly state that compensation should be paid in cash, electronic transfer or checks, unless the passenger chooses to accept travel vouchers instead. Essentially, it’s your choice as to whether to accept the vouchers or not. The data says that most people do.
But you must remember that it’s worth finding out what you might be entitled to if you refuse the airline’s offer and insist on cash instead.
Most people don’t know their rights on what compensation they’re owed. We estimate that even though 8 million people around the world are eligible for compensation, less than 2% will ever get the money they’re entitled to.
Additional entitlement to food, refreshments and other benefits
If overnight accommodation is necessary, they must provide you with a hotel room and transportation to and from the airport.
Upgrading and downgrading
If you are offered an alternative flight and are lucky enough to get an upgrade, the airline isn’t allowed to charge you anything extra. On the other hand, if the class of the alternative flight is lower, you can get a reimbursement of between 30-75% of the price you originally paid.
Even if you are compensated under EC 261, this doesn’t affect your right to request further compensation. This rule doesn’t apply in cases where passengers have voluntarily surrendered their reservations. But bear in mind that the amount you are entitled to under EC 261 may be deducted from whatever additional compensation you receive.
Obligation to inform passengers of their rights
Airlines are obliged to inform passengers about their rights and the content of EC 261. This means that every airline has to display information on passenger’s rights at check-in counters. You can find the full text of the regulation on this link.
What’s the alternative? How to file a claim for compensation with an airline
You can do this by calling them, writing to them, or asking a gate agent for the best method to file a complaint.
Keep in mind that the airline you booked with may not be the airline you flew with. If that’s the case, file the complaint with the airline you flew with. And make sure to include all the details listed above to avoid any unnecessary back and forth with the airline.
The potential downside: while the law says that passengers are entitled to flight delay compensation, when it comes to customer service, there are no laws requiring the airlines to get back to you. It could take them months to get back… or they might not get back at all. Try this method first, but understand it may not be the last step you take.
Take your case to the regulators
If the airline ignores or rejects your claim and you feel that you have a case, then the next step is to take your claim to the regulators. If you’re in the U.S., file a complaint with The Aviation Consumer Protection Division (ACPD). If you’re in Europe or the UK, file a complaint with CAA.
These websites show phone numbers you can call and have online forms to fill out so you can choose whichever method you prefer. Keep in mind that the regulators are on the side of holding airlines accountable, but they are not law enforcement bodies. Therefore, this is not a guaranteed way to get your compensation.
Take your case to court
If the first two steps don’t work, then the final step is to take your case to small claims court. First review your air passenger rights to ensure you have a strong case before you waste your time or money taking the airline to court.
Even though you’re filing a claim in court, you don’t need a lawyer. Just be prepared with all the details mentioned above and make your case. The most likely cause of a lost case is if the airline proves that the disruption occurred because of an “extraordinary circumstance” beyond their control. Make sure the disruption that happened to you was one that could have been prevented.
Claiming flight delay compensation on your own can be a frustrating process, but we’ve done everything we can to make sure you don’t have that experience with AirHelp.