Flight Delay Compensation in the UK

Flight delay compensation – are you entitled?

Air travel is not always the smooth-sailing experience we’d like. Unfortunately, flight delays happen. If you’ve been on a delayed flight, you may be able to claim up to £520 flight delay compensation

Read on to learn about your air passenger rights and how to make a delayed flight claim when your flight’s delayed.

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Delayed Flight? You may be entitled to as much as £520 in compensation

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At AirHelp we think that if you’re stuck and inconvenienced at an airport due to a fault of the airline, you shouldn’t be the one out of pocket. That’s why we’re on a mission to help air passengers. Both by educating passengers on the rights in case they are entitled of a flight delay compensation, and building technology to make claiming easier.

1. What are the Regulations on UK Flight Delay Compensation?

“UK 261” Regulations: Compensation for Delayed Flights in Europe

Following Brexit, the UK introduced legislation to match the European law EC 261. This guarantees passengers on UK flights the same protections afforded to those in the EU. This means that if your delayed flight was into or out the UK or Europe, you could be entitled to up to £520 in flight delay compensation.

EU law EC 261 and the UK law that matches it says you can file a delayed flight claim for 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. operational circumstances and technical difficulties).

  • Your flight took off in the EU or UK (flights into either also qualify in some cases)

  • It doesn’t matter whether the airline has already provided you with food, refreshment or travel vouchers.

What are the Delayed Flight Compensation Rights for UK Citizens?

No matter where you live, if you’re flying from an airport in UK or Europe, or flying into either territory on a UK or a European airline, you can make a delayed flight claim for flight delay under EC 261 and its UK equivalent.

ItineraryEU Air CarrierNon-EU Air Carrier
From inside the UK or EU to inside the UK or EU✔️ Covered✔️ Covered
From inside the UK or EU to outside the UK or EU✔️ Covered✔️ Covered
From outside the UK or EU to inside the UK or EU✔️ Covered❌ Not Covered
From outside the UK or EU to outside the UK or EU❌ Not Covered❌ Not Covered

UK flight delay compensation after Brexit

The UK’s flight delay rules used to fall under the regulations for flight delay compensation as governed by the European Union.

The EC261 regulations used to govern UK flight delay compensation, but when the UK left the EU in 2020 these regulations weren’t necessarily going to remain. 

As of January 2021, the UK changed the law to enforce their own version of the EC261 which means that regulation claims can still be made against UK carriers.

The UK legislation matches the European law EC 261 so there has been no significant change to passenger rights following Brexit.

Global Regulations on Delayed Flights: What is The Montreal Convention?

120 nations, including the USA, signed up to the 2003 Montreal Convention. This sets out air passenger rights for several types of flight disruption, including flight delays.

The convention addresses “damages” resulting from flight disruption. An example is financial damages. If your delayed flight meant you had to pay for an additional night in a hotel, you should be reimbursed for this. You can read more about the Montreal Convention here.

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2. Getting Flight Delay Compensation in the UK

Flight Delays Compensation UK – How Much are You Owed when your Flight is Delayed

For flights covered by the so-called UK 261 regulation, any flight delayed for longer than three hours entitles you to financial compensation.

The amount of flight delays UK compensation you’re entitled to depends on a couple of factors, including how long you have been delayed, and the distance of your flight. Let’s break down how much you’re owed for delayed flight compensation EU:

Less than 3 hours3 – 4 hoursMore than 4 hoursNever arrivedDistance
❌ £ –✔️ £220✔️ £220✔️ £220All flights 1,500 km or less
❌ £ –✔️ £350✔️ £350✔️ £350Internal EU flights over 1,500 km
❌ £ –✔️ £350✔️ £350✔️ £350Non-internal EU flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km
❌ £ –✔️ £260✔️ £520✔️ £520Non-internal EU flights over 3,500 km

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UK Flight Delay Compensation – How is Flight Delay Calculated?

UK flight delay is based on the time you arrive at your final destination. This is important because even if your flight takes off late, the airline may still be able to make up time in the air.

But what exactly is a flight’s “arrival time”?

In September 2014, the European Court of Justice (whose rulings have been carried over into UK law) defined “arrival time” to be the moment at which the aircraft has reached its final destination and one of its doors is open.

This is based on the assumption that, at that moment, the passengers are permitted to leave the aircraft.

This can sometimes be a difference of 15 minutes or more from the time you landed, so it’s important to be precise if you are claiming for your flight delay.

How long can a flight be delayed without compensation? Three full hours.

UK Flight Delay Compensation – Compensation for Business Travellers and Public Officials

Some people think that their employer will be entitled to any flight delay compensation for a delay during a business trip but that's not the case.

In fact, it is the passenger who has suffered the inconvenience that is entitled to flight delay compensation, not the person who paid for the ticket.

This is the general principle set out in the legislation covering major flight delays, cancellations and cases of overbooking. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an employee of a private-sector company or a public official.

Right to Care: Food, Refreshments and Accommodation

Your airline is required to provide meals, refreshments and accommodation where necessary(also known as right to care). Any time your flight is delayed for more than three hours after the original scheduled time of departure, UK law says you’re entitled to a number of essentials, depending on your flight details.

In the UK, a 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.

If overnight accommodation is necessary, they must provide you with a hotel room, and transportation to and from the airport.

Getting access to these entitlements can sometimes be a challenge, but any flight delayed more than three hours should be covered. With a flight less than 1500 km you can ask the airline for food and drinks after the second hour of delay. With a flight over 1500 km but less than 3500 km, you can approach the carrier after three hours. For flights greater than 3500 km in length, you can approach the airline and request your right to care after four hours.

Often, airlines won’t immediately offer food vouchers, food, accommodation. So it’s important to understand your rights and ask for your entitlements if they’re not offered.

Other Rights that come with so called “UK 261”

Right to reimbursement or re-routing

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.

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.

Further compensation

Even if you are compensated, 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 the law known as “UK 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.

Compensation for UK Delayed Flight: Cash or Flight Vouchers?

When your flight is delayed, your airline may offer you compensation in the form of flight vouchers. Of course when you’re tired and frustrated and someone is offering you a voucher for a new flight, it’s very hard to say ‘no’.

However, you should check that by accepting a voucher, you’re not waiving your right to claim for the compensation you’re legally entitled to. UK and EU 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 surveyed European air travellers and found that 85% don’t know their rights, and globally 13 million passengers do not receive the compensation they are entitled to.

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3. Which Cases are Covered by Airline Delay Compensation?

Delayed Flight Claim – Are All Delayed Flights Covered by EC 261?

Almost all routes within Europe (including the UK) are covered.

This includes not only EU airspace, but also Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the so-called “outermost-regions” (French Guiana and Martinique, Guadeloupe and La Réunion, Saint-Martin, Madeira, the Azores, and the Canary Islands).

A common misconception is that this legal protection only applies to flights within Europe, but that’s not the case.

If your flight departs from any airport in the UK or EU, you are able to make a delayed flight claim. You are also covered if your flight departs from outside the UK or EU but is with an airline based in one of the relevant territories.

With AirHelp, it’s simple.

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Airlines Do Not Have to Pay Compensation in Extraordinary Circumstances

The regulations in EC 261 and its corresponding UK law state that an airline can avoid liability if the delay is caused by extraordinary circumstances.

Extraordinary circumstances cover instances that the airline couldn’t control such as 

lightning strikes, medical emergencies, air traffic control strikes, serious adverse weather conditions, airport employee strikes or air traffic control strikes, air traffic control restrictions, sudden malfunctioning of the airport radar, acts of sabotage, political unrest, acts of terrorism… you get the idea.

There are a range of UK flight delays that are caused by extraordinary circumstances, so it’s good to know which conditions count as extraordinary.

Does snow count as a serious adverse weather condition?

It depends 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 European Court of Justice made a ruling whose judgement also pertains to UK law stating that internal ‘wildcat strikes’ by flight staff do not constitute extraordinary circumstances.

Therefore, airlines must now compensate air passengers for flight delays and cancellations, when an airline strike is to blame.

Compensation flight delay in UK: Missing a connecting flight

With travellers flying further afield than ever, it’s not unusual for a flight to have one (or more) stops, or connections, on the way.
And if any one of those flights are delayed it can cause you to miss your connection and throw the whole journey into chaos.

Firstly, if you do miss a connection because of a delayed flight, it is the airline’s responsibility to find you a replacement to the final destination on your ticket.

In addition you could be entitled to compensation under European laws. If the time you arrive at your final destination is over three hours later than your original flight, you could claim up to £520.

It’s important that your flights are booked together and part of the same journey. If you booked your own onward flight separately, that would not be covered.

You can read a lot more information on our missed connection advice page.

If your flight was delayed, cancelled or overbooked within the last 3 years, you could be eligible for up to £520 in compensation.

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4. How to File a Claim for Flight Delays Compensation

What to Do When Your Flight is Delayed in the UK

When your flight is delayed, you should be advised by the airline on the next steps.

Many airlines will provide vouchers for you to buy food and drink and if you need accommodation, they may book a hotel in case your flight is on the next day.

If you’ve just found out your flight is delayed and your airline isn’t communicating well, don’t stress. Follow our easy step-by-step guide on how to make the best out of the situation.

  • Hold onto your boarding pass and all other travel documents

  • Ask why the flight was delayed.

  • Gather proof of the delay, for example photos of the departure board or communications from the airline confirming the disruption.

  • 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.

  • Choose to wait it out or call it off if your delay is more than five hours.

  • If needed, get the airline to provide you with a hotel room.

  • Keep your receipts if your delayed flight ends up costing you extra money.

Flight Delayed Compensation – How to Claim Flight Delay Compensation with AirHelp

We understand that many air passengers do not have the time, experience or inclination to fight with airlines in order to make a delayed flight claim for the compensation they’re owed.

AirHelp is able to submit claims on passengers’ behalf:

  • We'll tell you quickly if we think you are eligible for compensation.

  • We'll handle all communication with the airline.

  • There's no risk, we only charge a fee when we're successful in getting your compensation.

Have AirHelp Claim Your Compensation

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Documents You Need to Claim Flight Delay Compensation

Airlines have different procedures and required documents in order to make a delayed flight claim. The best advice is to hold on to all documents if your flight is delayed.

One of the advantages of filing a claim with AirHelp, is we know exactly what each airline will require. We’ll help you to find the right documents when you kick off your claim.

If you’re going to file directly with an airline, you can expect some pushback. Even with the law on your side, they might not be enthusiastic – or quick – about paying you. To give your claim the best chance of succeeding, make sure you gather together all the documentation you can.

Tools to Help You Claim Compensation for Delayed Flights

Online eligibility checker
With a few clicks of your finger, you can transform your delayed or cancelled flight into a reimbursement claim.

After you have gone through our eligibility checklist and qualify to seek compensation, the good news is you can make a delayed flight claim.

Free trip delay compensation checker

Our free trip delay compensation checker makes it quick and simple to find out if you’re eligible to make a compensation claim.

It means you are able to check your trip delay compensation eligibility instantly.

After you enter your flight details into our free compensation checker, within seconds you are notified if you are eligible or not to make a claim for your delayed, cancelled or overbooked flight.

How Can AirHelp Help with Compensation for a Delayed Flight?

How AirHelp Can Enforce Your Rights

  • 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 helped more than 16 million passengers.

  • 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.

AirHelp’s Impact on Airline Delay Compensation Claims

In 2012, a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice, which still pertains to UK law, declared that passengers were entitled to compensation for long delays, as long as certain conditions were met.

That ruling opened the floodgates for flight delay compensation claims to be made by disgruntled passengers.

AirHelp’s team strives to ensure that passengers are relieved from the stress of making a claim.

We take on the responsibility of enforcing your right to compensation from the airline.

To date, we have helped over 16 million passengers process airline compensation claims.

I’m stranded on the tarmac – what should I do?

It’s important to take note of the time when the plane doors are closed. Then, if the wait feels like it’s getting a bit longer than normal, you can measure how much time you’ve been sitting on the tarmac.

If the wait is too long, there’s something you can do.

Tarmac delays are eligible for compensation just the same way a flight delay is eligible for compensation in Europe. However, if you’re not someone who likes sitting on a busy plane for longer than necessary, it’s a bad situation.

While supplying air conditioning, access to lavatories and water is mandatory, the law doesn’t require giving passengers the option to deplane until the tarmac delay reaches five hours.

Common questions about delay compensation

Can I claim compensation when my flight is delayed?

Yes, if your flight meets some basic criteria you can claim delayed flight compensation under air passenger rights laws in the UK, the EU, and Brazil.

Under UK and EU laws you may be able to claim compensation for delays where you arrived at your destination over 3 hours late. In Brazil we can support compensation claims for delays over 4 hours. It's also important to check why the flight was delayed. Airlines are usually exempt from paying compensation if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances outside of their control.

Will I get compensation when bad weather delays my flight?

Usually no — bad weather is considered to be an extraordinary circumstance. It's something that's not the airline's fault, so they don't have to compensate passengers for the ensuing delays.

In rare cases it is possible to make a case for compensation — if it's clear the airline was not prepared for expected bad weather. For example if it snows in a cold country, airlines should be prepared for that. If all other flights were able to leave on time, while your flight was delayed by 5 hours or more you could have a claim for compensation there.

How long can you be delayed before you get flight compensation?

Under EU law carried over into UK legislation, you can claim compensation for flights delayed by 3 hours or more.

Passengers are legally entitled to up to £520 compensation if they arrive over 3 hours late at their destination and the airline is responsible for the delay.

In other parts of the world the question of how long flight delay for compensation isn’t quite as clear cut. Under Brazilian law, we suggest claiming for compensation if your flight is delayed by 4 hours or more, or if the delay caused you a major inconvenience.

Can you claim for flight delays outside the UK or the EU?

Yes, you can — but things do get a little more complicated once you’re flying further afield.

Firstly you should know that flights leaving the UK (or the EU) for other parts of the world are still covered. Same for flights flying into the UK on a UK airline (or into the EU on an EU airline).

In the rest of the world there are other laws and regulations surrounding air passenger rights, but none as comprehensive as "UK 261" or EC 261. Brazil is close behind, so if you’ve experienced a delay flying into, out of, or within Brazil we could help you claim compensation.

How much compensation will I receive for a delayed flight?

You can receive from £220 to £520 compensation for a delayed flight, under UK regulations.

The amount of compensation is set by a Regulation known as “UK 261” introduced after Brexit to match the EU law EC 261. Both these laws grant passengers compensation based on the distance of your flight, whether you flew outside of the EU, and the length of your delay.

For flight delays in Brazil compensation amounts are not set, but, in previous cases, passengers have received up to R$5,000 in compensation. The easiest way to check how much you’re owed is by using our Compensation Check Tool.

How do I claim for a delayed flight?

To go about getting your delayed flight compensation you can either contact the airline directly to argue your case, or you can use a specialist firm like AirHelp who will handle your claim for you.

You can start with our Compensation Check Tool, which will help you establish if you are owed compensation, as well as telling you how much.

Is it worth claiming compensation for a flight delay?

Yes. If your flight was delayed over 3 hours you could legally be owed up to £520 under UK passenger rights laws. AirHelp can handle the whole claim process for you, and we work on a no win, no fee basis — so you have nothing to lose!

How long does it take to get flight delay compensation?

It's very hard to predict how long a flight delay claim will take as so many factors can affect it. Sometimes, the process takes a few weeks or months, but if the airline has a lot of other claims that will add on extra time. If claims need to go to court, expect it to be longer than that. But this is why AirHelp exists! We'll handle the entire process from start to finish, including chasing the airline, so you can relax — however long it takes.

How do I claim delayed flight compensation in the UK?

You can claim compensation for a delayed flight in the UK exactly the same way you would claim for an EU flight.

Following Brexit, the UK introduced air passenger laws based on the EU regulation EC 261. This means that passengers on all UK flights delayed for more than 3 hours can claim up to £520 compensation.

Want to know if you have a valid claim? Use our quick Compensation Check tool.

How long can my flight be delayed before I get compensation in the UK?

You can claim compensation on flight delays over 3 hours. After Brexit, the UK adopted much of EC 261, the EU law on air passenger rights. That means the laws are very similar and affording passengers on UK flights a very similar amount of protection.

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