Regulation 261/2004 safeguards your rights from the moment you miss a connecting flight due to the delay or cancellation of your first flight. Here is all you need to know about your rights:
Some journeys require connecting flights to reach a final destination. For this type of travel, a passenger needs to board more than one flight to get to the end of their flight journey.
For instance, you can travel from Liverpool to London, then from London to Los Angeles.
However, without warning, flights can be canceled. In other circumstances, a passenger can miss a connecting flight due to the first leg of their journey being delayed or due to denied boarding.
Did you know that you may be eligible for compensation from an airline if they are responsible for you missing your flight connection?
If you qualify under EC 261, an airline is obligated to pay you missed connection flight compensation of up to €600.
Fault of the airline
Under EC 261, passengers are eligible to claim compensation when then these three flight disruptions occur: a 3-hour (or more) delayed flight at your final destination, cancellation and denied boarding.
Therefore, if you miss a flight connection as a result of these listed flight incidents, you are eligible for missed connection compensation.
Remember that in relation to the 3-hour (or more) delay principle, it is immaterial how long the delay is that caused the missed connection. The focus is on the length of delay of your final destination which has to be three hours or more.
Qualify under EC 261
For you to be entitled to claim cash compensation under EC 261, your flight must be either:
Taking off from an EU airport and operated by any airline
arriving at an EU airport and operated by an EU airline
|Itinerary||EU air carrier||non-EU air carrier|
|From inside the EU to inside the EU||✔️ Yes||✔️ Yes|
|From inside the EU to outside the EU||✔️ Yes||✔️ Yes|
|From outside the EU to inside the EU||✔️ Yes||❌ No|
|From outside the EU to outside the EU||✔️ Yes if the itinerary covered by the EC 261 originated in EU regardless of what leg was disrupted (both EU and non-EU) E.g. delay and missed connection & rerouting non-EU to non-EU & delay 3+ hours||✔️ Yes if the itinerary covered by the EC 261 originated in EU regardless of what leg was disrupted (both EU and non-EU) E.g. delay and missed connection & rerouting non-EU to non-EU & delay 3+ hours|
Hold a single ticket
Under EC 261 your tickets need to be booked under the same booking reference. This means that even if your journey includes several legs, they must be all under a single ticket.
If the reason for a flight delay, denied boarding or cancellation is due to extraordinary circumstances.
These instances are deemed to be outside the control of the airline. As a result, the airline is not responsible and not obligated to pay compensation.
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.
Airlines are only held responsible for things that they control.
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’.
This means that announced airline strikes do not qualify as ‘extraordinary’.
Therefore, airlines must now compensate air passengers for flight delays and cancellations, when an airline strike is to blame.
If you have a multi-flight trip, it’s possible that only a portion of it will be factored into your missed connection compensation. As we explained, to determine this, your journey must meet a few conditions:
All flights must be under one booking, not purchased individually
The disruption must be eligible under EC 261, meaning: (a) The disruption was not caused by extraordinary events (b) The itinerary is covered by EC 261
The missed connection must be caused by a delay (of any length) and the total delay upon the arrival at the final destination equals at least three hours. The missed connection must be caused either by a cancellation or a denied boarding and in these two instances, the total delay to final destination could be of any length.
When a flight disruption happens that meets the criteria above, the airline operating the flight is responsible for compensating you.
To figure out the eligible distance, the disrupted flight 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, if they were operated by the same carrier responsible for the delay and there were no intervening flights operated by a different carrier.
To sum it up, if one airline causes a missed connection, they are usually responsible for all of their own flights, even if they came before the disruption. They are also responsible for any later flights that are affected, even if they are with a different airline.
Let’s look at an example of a missed connection when you’re traveling from Los Angeles to Warsaw, via New York and London.
Let’s also imagine that the first flight is with a US carrier, like Delta, and the last two legs are with British Airways, an EU carrier. If the flight from London to Warsaw is delayed by more than three hours, then the last two legs of the trip are normally factored into the eligible distance. That’s from New York to Warsaw.
The disruption occurred on a flight that was covered under EC 261 and, since British Airways also operated the flight from New York to London, it’s usually included – even though it was prior to the disruption.
However if the flight from Los Angeles to New York has caused the delay, the flight would not be covered under EC 261. Although this rule generally holds true, some EU courts interpret the regulation differently and may not include prior connecting flights in the eligible distance.
If you missed your flight connection because of a delay, you are entitled to missed connection compensation of up to €600 per passenger, providing you arrive three hours late at your final destination.
This applies even if the connecting flight is operated by another airline, as long as the ticket is valid for both flights.
The airline is obligated to provide snacks and refreshments as soon as a flight is delayed for two hours or more.
Remember that it doesn’t matter whether the airline has already provided you with meal or travel vouchers. You are still entitled to compensation.
To qualify for missed connection compensation, you must satisfy the following criteria:
You bought your tickets on the same reservation
Your flight falls under the criteria listed under EC 261
The airline is responsible for the missed connection
Once you satisfy this, you are entitled to compensation even if you accept a replacement flight your destination or a flight back to your point of departure.
How is the amount calculated?
For trips with several legs, the focus is not the destination at the point of origin (i.e. the delayed departure). Rather, its the delayed arrival at the very final destination of the whole itinerary booked under the same booking reference.
In case of cancellation (or delay fewer than 4 hours for long distance flights 3500 km) your compensation amount may be halved, depending on the overall amount of time you would be delayed in arriving at your final destination on an alternate flight (compared to your originally booked flight).
For flights less than 1, 500 km: €250
For flights between 1, 500 and 3, 500 km: €400
For flights longer than 3, 500 km: €600
When it comes to claiming compensation, the determining factor is the distance from the destination of the canceled first flight and the arrival time for the taken alternative flight.
A simple way to digest this is:
|All flights of 1,500 km or less||€ 250|
|All internal EU flights of more than 1,500 km||€ 400|
|All non-internal EU flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km (Outermost regions which are French Guiana and Martinique, Mayotte, Guadeloupe and La Réunion, Saint-Martin, Madeira and the Azores, and the Canary Islands )||€ 400|
|All non-internal EU flights of more than 3,500 km||€ 600|
Why choose AirHelp?
• AirHelp is the leading flight compensation company in the world, helping passengers understand their rights and get compensation for delayed or canceled 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 16 million passengers to get up to €600 in compensation.
• 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 will get no fee unless you get compensated.
If you missed your connection due to the fault of the airline (e.g. delayed flight caused by non-extraordinary events) or mechanical problems), you are entitled to:
Head to the airline counter and speak to an airline representative. Understandably you are bound to be feeling frantic. Despite this, stay calm. Politely ask to be put on another flight.
If there is a long queue, as time is of the essence, skip the line and call the airline instead.
This is the quicker way of finding an alternative flight.
Should the airline not be able to find you a substitute flight, you can book one yourself. If you choose this option, keep the receipt. The airline is obligated to offer you a refund for this.
Opt for a refund and a flight back to the airport you departed from
After missing your flight connection, if the airline does not do its best to offer a substitute flight, or the airline offers an alternative flight that does not satisfy the passenger’s needs (e.g. the passenger has to be at the final destination in 24 hours at least and the alternative flight arrives in 48 hours) : you are entitled to choose a refund with a flight that takes you back to your point of origin or an alternative flight.
The airline is obligated to get your substitute flight for free.
Have you been delayed for more than two hours? Know your right to care
When you miss your connecting flight, if the wait until your next flight (re-routing back to where you came from or to your final destination) stretches more than two hours, the airline is obliged to provide you with food, refreshment, a phone call and free access to the internet.
If by 6.00pm the airline has still not managed to rebook you to another fight, hasn’t found a seat on a night flight or for the next day, the airline must arrange your hotel accommodation.
The airline must also ensure you are able to transport yourself from the airport to the hotel and vice versa.
The following types of travelers or ticket types are all eligible to missed connection compensation providing the criteria laid out in EC 261 are satisfied:
Package holiday deals
Children on paid tickets
Remember that although most travelers are entitled to claim compensation, there are a few exceptions.
Namely, passengers traveling free of charge or at a reduced fare not available directly or indirectly to the public.
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.
You may have prepared for your flight and ticked all the boxes on your to-do list but sometimes life happens.
Mishaps like a family emergency, a grave illness or a flat tire can make you a no-show on your flight.
Here are a few things you should do when this happens.
Contact the Airline
Your first point of call is to try to salvage some of the money you invested in your ticket.
Assuming you have missed your flight (or are about to) and you are not at the airport, contact your airline through their local number. You should be able to retrieve this via your airport’s website.
If you want to book a new ticket, your airline is likely to request a change fee. If the fare has gone up since the last time you bought your ticket—you will need to pay the difference in price.
Despite these extra charges, if you call ahead, it is better to pay more than to lose your ticket completely.
If you are at the airport, proceed to the ticketing counter or gate agent. Explain your situation and ask for the options available to you.
Here, you are at the mercy of the agents, so play nice.
When this happens, it’s important that you contact the airline or airport’s baggage claim. This is so they can keep your checked bags safe and on the ground until you can collect them.
If you made the first flight but missed your connection, a lot of airlines will make you a standby on the next available flight.
Is a One-Way Ticket Your Best Option?
It’s understandable that the prospect of having to contact the airline and be put through your paces is not appealing. But does this mean that you should scrap your original ticket and buy a new one?
This may be the case if the change fee is sky-high and buying a new ticket is cheaper. For instance, if you missed your outbound flight and you’ve found a cheaper one-way than the change fee, then go for the one-way flight.
However, when making the decision, be aware that buying a new one-way ticket makes your existing itinerary null and void. So unless you are sure you want to cancel your trip completely, avoid doing this.
Inform Your Hotel
Contact your hotel as soon as it is clear you will not be able to make your hotel reservation. Your goal here is to avoid extra charges made to your booking.
To ensure you don’t miss your connecting flight, you need to give yourself enough time between flights.
That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
The problem is with airlines often creating a minuscule open window to connect between flights, this can be a tough rule to follow.
To avoid missing your connecting flight, the secret is to be alert when booking your ticket. Pay attention to the layover times.
Ideally, it would be great to have at least one hour layover time for domestic flights and two hours for international flights.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself when considering if the flight’s layover time is sufficient:
Do you have to go through customs?
Will you have to change terminals?
What transport do you need to take to change terminals?
Is your connecting flight the last flight of the day for that airport?
Is your next flight on a different airline?
Also, bear in mind that if your layover time is between thirty to forty-five minutes, this is not actually a lot of time. So avoid doing time-waster activities like window shopping or making lengthy phone calls.
As can be expected, if you are responsible for missing your connecting flight, the airline is not obligated to pay you any compensation.
If you ask the airline to assist you with your re-booking, they may oblige. However, they are under no obligation to do so.
When you have a journey that requires connecting flights or you are flying into a popular airport, ensure you have plenty of time between flights.
When it comes to air travel, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Your right to missed connection compensation depends on whether:
Your tickets are purchased on the same reservation as opposed to separately
Your itinerary must be covered by EC 261
The airline is responsible for the missed connection
Providing you satisfy all this criteria, you qualify for compensation whether you accept a substitute flight to your destination or a refund of the ticket price and a flight back to your point of departure.
If you missed your connection due to the fault of the airline (e.g. a delayed flight caused by non-extraordinary events or mechanical problems), the airline should re-book you on the next available flight. The amount you are entitled to depends on your itinerary.
When you have missed your connecting flight either speak to an airline representative to do this or call the airline.
Either way, make sure to keep a calm and polite tone.
You will understandably be stressed but showing this will not make your situation any smoother.
Should the airline not be able to find you a substitute flight, you can book one yourself. If you choose this option, keep the receipt. The airline is obligated to offer you a full refund or the difference between the price of the original and the new ticket, if the latter is more expensive.
You can also opt for a refund and a flight back to the airport you departed from.
The airline is obligated to do this for free.
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