What is flight cancellation compensation?
Air travel is not always smooth and sometimes flight cancellations happen.
An airline can cancel a flight for a number of reasons. Sometimes, problems like bad weather or security risks can create a knock-on effect leading an airline to pull the plug on a flight.
Did you know that when an airline cancels your flight, you may be eligible to receive flight cancellation compensation?
EU regulation, EC 261, gives passengers the right to be reimbursed for flight cancellations providing certain criteria are met.
If you qualify under EC 261, an airline is obligated to pay you flight cancellation compensation of up to €600 .
What counts as flight cancellation?
Flight cancellation involves two parties, the airline and passenger.
The airline considers a flight as cancelled if the plane never left the tarmac. The EC 261 defines a cancelled flight as,
“The non-operation of a flight which was previously planned and on which at least one place was reserved”.
As a passenger, for your flight to be deemed cancelled: you must have booked a ticket for the flight in question.
Remember that a flight that takes off late, i.e. a delayed flight, is not a cancelled flight.
Are you eligible to claim flight cancellation compensation?
Under EC 261, you are entitled to compensation for your cancelled flight if…
- The cancelled flight should have been set to depart from the EU(from any airline) or scheduled to land in the EU (provided that the airline is headquartered in the EU).
- You need to have a confirmed reservation shown by a booking reservation (with information like the flight number, name of passenger etc.) of the flight.
- The airline notifies the passenger of the cancellation less than 14 days before the flight is set to depart
- Your flight is cancelled by not-so-extraordinary circumstances like “technical difficulties” or “operational circumstances”. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has repeatedly stated that those don’t qualify as “extraordinary circumstances”, which means the airline must still oblige by EC 261 obligations and pay you compensation.
- Under a recent ruling by the ECJ, internal ‘wildcat strikes’ by flight staff do not constitute as ‘extraordinary circumstances’. Therefore, airlines must now compensate air passengers for flight delays and cancellations, when an airline strike is to blame.
Cancelled flights: under which circumstances are passengers not covered under EC 261?
Providing the airline informed passengers of the flight cancellation 14 days or more in advance.
Extraordinary circumstances are not covered.
An airline can avoid liability if the delay is caused by “extraordinary circumstances”.
These include situations like lightning strikes, medical emergencies, airport employee strikes or air traffic control strikes, serious adverse weather conditions, air traffic control restrictions, sudden malfunctioning of the airport radar, acts of sabotage, political unrest, acts of terrorism… you get the idea.
Does snow count as a ‘serious adverse weather condition’?
It depends on whether or not the airline could have prevented the problem.
If, for example, the airline failed to ensure that there were sufficient supplies of de-icer before the onset of winter, it could be held responsible for the delay—especially if flights operated by other airlines were able to depart on time.
Airline strikes do not fall under extraordinary circumstances
In April 2018, the ECJ made a ruling stating that, internal ‘wildcat strikes’ by flight staff do not constitute as ‘extraordinary circumstances’.
Therefore, airlines must now compensate air passengers for flight delays and cancellations, when an airline strike is to blame.
Free of charge
Passengers travelling free of charge (e.g. air hostess) or at a reduced fare not available directly, or indirectly to the public are not eligible to flight cancellation compensation.
Cancelled flights: Re-routing
Under EC 261, all cancelled flights are covered apart from when the airline has given you 14 days’ notice. But there’s a catch.
If the airline offers to re-route you, it can avoid paying cancellation compensation if the following criteria are met:
|Advance Notice||Re-routing Requirements|
|7 - 13 Days||Alternative flight departing no more than 2 hours before and arriving less than 4 hours after the original flight|
|Less than 7 Days||Alternative flight departing no more than 1 hours before and arriving less than 2 hours after the original flight|
Flight cancellation rights: Under EC 261, what are you entitled to if your flight is cancelled?
We’re glad you asked! We’ve included a few highlights below. In addition to compensation for your loss of time, you are entitled to either:
- A full or partial refund of your original ticket and a return flight to your point of departure.
- The earliest possible alternative transport to your final destination.
- A new ticket to your final destination at a later date of your choosing, subject to availability.
You could be eligible for a flight cancellation claim as much as €600.
Reimbursement or rerouting + compensation
According to EC 261, when a flight is cancelled, you should be offered the choice between:
Reimbursement within seven days of the full cost of the ticket at the price at which it was bought and, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure,
Re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at the earliest opportunity or rerouting, under comparable transport conditions, to their final destination at a later date
What is the relation between right to compensation, reimbursement and rerouting?
Reimbursement or rerouting + compensation!
If the airline notifies you of the cancellation less than 14 days departure, you can be entitled to compensation.
When you’re stuck waiting for the airline to get you back on track, 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, telefax or fax messages, and emails.
If you need overnight accommodation, they must provide you with a hotel room and transport to and from the airport.
Upgrading and downgrading
If you’re offered an alternative flight and are lucky enough to be placed in a higher class than the one you booked, the carrier cannot charge you any additional payment. 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.
How is flight cancellation compensation calculated?
The amount you receive for cancelled flight compensation depends on three factors; travel distance, whether or not your flight was within the EU and the length of the delay if you accept re-routing on another flight. So it’s a bit complicated, but this should help:
|Length of delay|
|Less than 3 hours||3 – 4 hours||More than 4 hours||Never arrived||Distance|
|€ –||€250||€250||€250||All flights 1,500 km or less|
|€ –||€400||€400||€400||Internal EU flights over 1,500 km|
|€ –||€400||€400||€400||Non-internal EU flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km|
|€ –||€300||€600||€600||Non-internal EU flights over 3,500 km|
What it boils down to is that your flight cancellation compensation may be halved if you accept an alternative flight.
If you decline the re-routing, you’ll get the amount in the ‘Never arrived’ column, as well as a refund of your ticket price and a return flight to your original departure location, if necessary.
Entitled to a claim? Let AirHelp enforce your rights
Why choose AirHelp?
- AirHelp is the leading flight compensation company in the world, helping passengers understand their rights and get compensation for delayed or cancelled flights, and in instances of denied boarding.
- AirHelp is the best-rated flight compensation company in the world with a 9.5 score on Trustpilot.
- We have already empowered more than five million passengers to get up to €600 in compensation, generating over 160 million Euros in claims.
- To avoid the burden of time and navigating the complex legal system.
- Airlines may deny your initial claim or ignore your claim request entirely, our team tackle bureaucratic hurdles to get you the money you deserve.
What does AirHelp charge to claim flight delay?
AirHelp will get no fee unless you get compensated.
Steps to take when your flight is cancelled
If you’re going to file a compensation claim under EC 261, you can expect some pushback from the airline. Just because the law is on your side doesn’t mean they are going to be enthusiastic – or swift – about paying you. If you’re travelling to or from the European Union, here’s what to do when your flight is unexpectedly scrubbed:
- Hold onto your boarding pass and add any other travel documents.
- Ask why the flight is canceled.
- Request an alternate flight to your destination or refund.
- Make a note of the arrival time at your destination.
- Ask the airline to pay for your meals and refreshments.
- Don’t sign anything or accept any offers that may waive your rights.
- Get the airline to provide you with a hotel room.
- Keep your receipts if your canceled flight ends up costing you extra money.
Really happy with the service airhlep provided. I was reimbursed for a terrible experience with an international flight that got cancelled a few years ago and made over $400! score!
I have a connecting flight—is the whole journey eligible?
If you have just one flight, travel distance is a factor when determining how much money you are eligible for. But if you have a multi-flight trip, it’s possible that only part of it will be factored into your compensation. To determine this, your journey must meet a couple of conditions:
- The flights must be under one booking, not purchased individually
- Your flight disruption must be eligible under EC 261
When a flight cancellation happens to meet the criteria above, the carrier operating that flight is responsible for compensating you. To figure out the eligible distance, the disrupted flights and any legs that come after it are factored in.
Any legs of the journey that came before the disruption might be included as well, as long as they were operated by the same carrier responsible for the cancellation and there were no intervening flights operated by a different carrier.
To sum up, if one airline causes an issue, it will usually be responsible for all of its own flights, even if they came before the disruption, as well as any later flights that are affected, even if they are with a different airline.
Some EU courts interpret the regulation differently and may not include prior connecting flights in the eligible distance. The quickest way to check your eligibility is by entering your flight details in the box below.
Is there a time limit to file my claim?
Your right to compensation under EC 261 does eventually expire, so it’s important to know the Statute of Limitations for your claim.
This varies from one country to the next and is determined by where the headquarters of the airline is or what court has jurisdiction in cases concerning the airline.
Are there any other rights that come with EC 261?
Your right to compensation under EC 261 does not affect your right to request further compensation.
This rule does not apply in cases where passengers have voluntarily surrendered their reservations. Of course, the amount you are entitled to under EC 261 may be deducted from whatever additional compensation you receive.
Obligation to inform passengers about flight cancellation compensation
Your first basic right is to be informed about the content of EC 261. Every airline has to display information on passengers’ rights at their check-in counters at every airport in which they operate.
If you’d like to get even closer to the law, you can read the actual text of EC 261. And last but not least, here’s our man Scott with the basics of air passenger rights.
Flight cancellations UK—what about Brexit?
These flight cancellation rights fall under the regulations for EU flight delay compensation. Consequently, they apply until the UK officially leaves the union in March 2019.
Time will tell how this impacts the UK but until then, the regulations stated above are the current law.
I’ve used them more than once, and every time my experience has been excellent.