Flight Delay Compensation

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 €600 flight delay compensation under a European legislation called EC 261.

Read on to learn about your air passenger rights and how to claim delayed flight compensation.

Delayed flight claim — When are you eligible for flight delay compensation?

Under EC 261, you could be entitled to file a delayed flight claim for €600 cash flight compensation if…

  • You arrived at your destination more than 3 hours late

  • Your flight took off in the EU (many flights into the EU also qualify)

  • You checked in for your flight on time

  • It happened in the last 3 years

  • The delay wasn’t caused by extraordinary circumstances

Do you think you might be owed compensation?

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How much compensation should you get for flight delay?

For flights covered by EU law EC 261, delays longer than 3 hours may qualify for financial compensation.

The amount of delayed flight compensation you’re entitled to depends on the distance of your flight. This chart breaks it down:

DistanceLess than 3 hours3 – 4 hoursMore than 4 hoursNever arrived
1,500 km or less❌ € –✔️ €250✔️ €250✔️ €250
Internal EU flights over 1,500 km❌ € –✔️ €400✔️ €400✔️ €400
Non-internal EU flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km❌ € –✔️ €400✔️ €400✔️ €400
Non-internal EU flights over 3,500 km❌ € –✔️ €300✔️ €600✔️ €600
  • How EU flight delay compensation is calculated

  • Which delayed flights are covered by EC 261?

  • No compensation for extraordinary circumstances

  • Compensation for delayed business travel

  • Flight delay compensation is paid in cash

  • Delay compensation for missed connecting flights

How long can a flight be delayed without compensation? 3 full hours.

How EU flight delay compensation is calculated

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 (case C-452/13) 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.

Calculate your compensation for delayed flights for free!

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Are all delayed flights covered by EC 261?

Almost all routes within Europe 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 EC 261 only applies to flights within Europe, but that’s not the case.

If your flight departs from any airport in the EU, it’s covered. And it’s also covered if your flight departs from outside the EU but is with an EU airline.

ItineraryEU airlineNon-EU airline
From inside the EU to inside the EU✔️ Covered✔️ Covered
From inside the EU to outside the EU✔️ Covered✔️ Covered
From outside the EU to inside the EU✔️ Covered❌ Not Covered
From outside the EU to outside the EU❌ Not Covered❌ Not Covered

Airline compensation is not required for extraordinary circumstances

The regulations in EC 261 state that an airline doesn’t have to pay compensation if the delay is caused by extraordinary circumstances.

What are extraordinary circumstances? Broadly speaking they’re situations which the airline can’t control. Situations like lightning strikes, bad weather conditions, medical emergencies, airport employees going on strike, air traffic control restrictions, political unrest, acts of terrorism… you get the idea.

Do airline strikes fall under extraordinary circumstances?

In March 2021, the European Court of Justice made a ruling stating that strikes by flight staff do not constitute extraordinary circumstances.

Therefore, airlines must pay compensation for flight delays when an airline strike is to blame.

Flight delay compensation for business travelers and public officials

Many people think that their employer will be entitled to any 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 EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation for 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.

Flight delay compensation is paid in cash

When your flight is delayed, your airline may offer you compensation in the form of flight vouchers.

EU regulations clearly state that compensation should be paid in cash, electronic transfer, or checks. So you don't have to accept the voucher — unless you want to.

Delay compensation for missed connecting flights

A missed connection is just like a delay in EC 261. If you arrive at your final destination is over 3 hours late, you could claim up to €600.

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

Submit your delayed flight claim with AirHelp

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How to get flight delay compensation

What to do when your flight is delayed

If you’ve just found out your flight is delayed, 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 any 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.

  • 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.

If the flight delay lasts over 5 hours, under EC 261 you can choose not to fly and instead get a full refund for your flight ticket from the airline.

This doesn't affect your right to 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 claim the compensation they’re owed.

Why use AirHelp:

  • 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 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 EC 261 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 flight delay compensation

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

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

Flight delays: What else does the law cover?

When you’re stuck waiting for the airline to get you back on track toward your destination, European law EC 261 says you’re entitled to a number essentials, depending on your flight details.


Under EC 261, your airline must offer you access to communications, including two telephone calls, fax messages, or emails.

Food and drink

Your airline must provide you with meals and refreshments during the delay.

For short flights, under 1,500 km, you are entitled to food and drink after 2 hours.

Flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km get food and drink after a 3-hour delay.

Flights over 3,500 km are entitled to food and drink after a 4-hour delay.


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

Refund or an alternative flight

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 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.

See the full text of the regulation

If your flight was delayed, canceled or overbooked within the last 3 years, you could be eligible for up to €600 in compensation.

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More flight delay regulations

Flight Delay Compensation US

The USA does not have its own comprehensive set of air passenger rights covering flight delay. However, if you’re flying to or from Europe, you may be protected under EC 261.

The USA does have clear laws on tarmac delays — i.e. if you're delayed after you board the plane. You will be entitled to information, food and water, but not compensation.

Global regulations on delayed flights: The Montreal Convention

Over 140 nations, including the USA, are 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. Read more about the Montreal Convention.

Delayed Flight?

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Common questions about flight delay compensation

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