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.
Under EC 261, you could be entitled to file a delayed flight claim for up to €600 cash flight compensation if…
You arrived at your destination more than 3 hours later than planned.
Your flight took off in the EU (flights into the EU also qualify in some cases)
You 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 3 years ago.
The airline was responsible for the delay (e.g. operational circumstances or technical difficulties).
It doesn’t matter if the airline already provided you with food, refreshment or travel vouchers.
For flights covered by EU law EC 261, any delay longer than 3 hours entitles you to financial compensation.
The amount of delayed flight compensation you’re entitled to depends on a couple of factors, including how long you have been delayed, and the distance of your flight. This chart breaks it down:
|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|
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.
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.
The carrier must provide you with meals and refreshments during the delay as well as access to communications, including 2 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.
Right to reimbursement or re-routing
In addition to compensation for your loss of time, if your delay exceeds 5 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.
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.
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. 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 are not receiving the compensation that is rightfully owed to them.
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).
UK flights are also covered as they adopted much of the wording of EC 261 into British law.
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.
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-425/13) 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.
How long can a flight be delayed without compensation? 3 full hours.
The regulations in EC 261 state that an airline can avoid liability if the delay is caused by extraordinary circumstances.
These include situations like lightning strikes, medical emergencies, 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.
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 you faced an extremely long delay while flights operated by other airlines were able to depart on time.
Do Airline strikes fall under extraordinary circumstances?
After years of uncertainty, AirHelp brought a case before the European Court of Justice to resolve this issue of whether passengers should receive compensation for delays and cancellations caused by airline staff going on strike. In March 2021 the court decided in our favour, ruling that strikes by flight staff do not constitute an extraordinary circumstance.
As European Court of Justice decisions are binding across the EU, and apply retrospectively, airlines must compensate air passengers for flight delays and cancellations when an airline staff strike is to blame.
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 3 hours later than your original flight, you could claim up to €600.
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 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.
Choose to wait it out or call it off if your delay is more than 5 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.
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.
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.
Online eligibility checker
With a few clicks of your finger, you can transform your delayed or cancelled flight into a reimbursement claim.
After you enter your flight details into our free trip delay compensation checker, within seconds you are notified if you are eligible or not to make a claim for your delayed, cancelled or overbooked flight.
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.
No matter where you live, if you’re flying from a European airport, or flying into Europe on a European airline, you can claim for flight delay under EC 261. This chart makes it clear:
|Itinerary||EU Air Carrier||Non-EU Air Carrier|
|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|
Flight Delayed Compensation US
The USA does not have its own comprehensive set of air passenger rights covering flight delay, with one exception:
There are clear laws on your rights if your plane is delayed on the tarmac. These entitle you to information, food and water. You can read exactly what they cover here.
Over 130 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. You can read more about the Montreal Convention here.
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 9.2 score on Trustpilot.
We have already helped more than 16 million passengers.
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.
In 2012, a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice declared that passengers were entitled to compensation for long delays, as long as certain conditions were met.
Following on from that ruling, the floodgates opened 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 their airline compensation claims.
Yes, you can! Passengers are eligible to claim compensation for a delayed flight so long as the delay meets the necessary criteria for eligibility. Usually, you are eligible if you arrived at least 3 hours late at your destination departing from any airport in the EU, or 4 hours in Brazil. The rest of the world, unfortunately, do not yet have such strong air passenger rights.
To know if your flight qualifies for compensation under the various regulations in place try our free Compensation Check.
Most flights delayed by bad weather fall under extraordinary circumstances, which reflects the fact the airline is not responsible for the delay, and therefore does not have to pay their passengers compensation.
However, there are a few cases where you can be compensated: If bad weather is expected, for example in a cold country where it regularly snows in winter, the airline must plan ahead so that they can depart on time. If your flight was extremely delayed (i.e. 5 hours or more) , but others were able to get away on time, you have an argument for compensation.
For other common questions such as "Will rain delay a flight?", "Do flights get delayed for storms?" and “Do flights get delayed by snow?" will depend on specific flight circumstances. But, if you are delayed , at least you can quickly check whether you’re eligible for compensation with our easy to use tool!
Unfortunately, no, you can’t claim compensation for a 1-hour flight delay. In the EU and the UK a flight delay becomes eligible for compensation after 3 hours. In Brazil, it’s after 4.
While a 1-hour flight delay can still be stressful and frustrating, air passenger rights laws don’t see the delay time as being long enough to greatly alter your plans or cause undue levels of emotional stress.
For a flight to be eligible for compensation, at least in the EU, a passenger will need to experience a significant delay in arriving at their final destination. Exactly how long you need to be delayed before receiving compensation depends on the distance of your flight. Your best bet is it use our quick and easy Flight Compensation Check tool. In Europe, the benchmark for a delay is after 3 hours. The time varies, however, in other countries' laws. In Brazil we can assist with compensation claims for delays over 4 hours.
Yes, you can — but things do get a little more complicated once you’re flying further afield.
The first thing to know is that flights leaving Europe for other parts of the world are still covered by Regulation EC 261 and its UK equivalent, offering passengers the same protection as usual. This also applies to flights flying into Europe on an airline has its headquarters in the EU or UK.
What about if your flight isn't anywhere near Europe? While there are laws and regulations surrounding air passenger rights in the rest of the world, none are as comprehensive as EC 261 / “UK 261”. Brazil, however, is close behind— if you’ve experienced a delay flying into, out of, or within Brazil you could be owed compensation.
The amount of compensation you are entitled to receive varies depending on the length of your flight and the amount of time that you were delayed. In the EU, you could get as much as €600. In Brazil, there are no set compensation amounts, but based on previous cases, passengers may receive as much as R$5,000 in compensation. The easiest way to check how much you are owed is use our quick Compensation Check tool.
We think the best and simplest way to claim compensation for a delayed flight is to use our specialised tool to evaluate whether you’ve got a valid claim, then let us argue the case on your behalf. AirHelp has years of experience and will only take a fee if your claim is successful. It is possible to open a claim directly with the airline, but you’ve got to be proactive and we know that negotiating with lawyers and overcoming legal technicalities can be stressful. If you are curious if you are eligible for a delayed flight, use our easy Compensation Check tool, which will help you establish how much you are owed.
Yes. If your flight is delayed for more than 3 hours, the airline may legally owe you money — in Europe it could be worth up to €600 per person. If you have an eligible flight, you can choose to claim alone or to use a claims company like AirHelp who will handle the process of getting money for you.
The amount of time it takes to receive flight delay compensation varies greatly. There are several factors that come into play: the amount of claims the airline has to process and if any legal disputes arise. Sometimes, the process can take just a few months, or even weeks. In the cases where a dispute needs to be settled in court, it can take longer than that. This is why services like AirHelp exist — our job is to handle the entire process from start to finish, so that you don't have to keep following up with the airline.
In addition to compensation for a delayed flight, you may be eligible to claim for some expenses or costs incurred due to a delay. However, airlines are quite strict about what you’re able to claim in this regard. If you need to stay overnight, you may be able to claim for a hotel stay as well as transport back and forth from the accommodation — but only if the costs are reasonable and necessary. Similarly, you may also be able to claim for essential food and drink purchased due to your delay. Be sure to retain all receipts!
Extraordinary circumstances is a legal term for any situation that is outside of the airline's control. Some of the most common examples are flight delays caused by bad weather conditions such as storms, heavy fog, or snow, as well as waits caused by airport staff strikes. Some of the less common occurrences which also count as extraordinary circumstances include natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, terrorism, and in some cases, even unruly passengers.
If your flight is delayed after you've boarded and you're just sat waiting on the tarmac, in the EU you are eligible for compensation just the same way as any other form of delay. Keep a note of what time you land at your final destination, and then check here if you're entitled to compensation.
Laws about tarmac delays mandate how customers are cared for, usually ensuring they have access to lavatories and water, and limiting how long passengers can be asked to wait. For example in the US, passengers must be able to deplane after 3 hours. In the EU that limit is after 5 hours.
In short, 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 legislation matching the EU regulation EC 261. This means that passengers on all UK flights delayed for more than 3 hours are entitled for compensation of up to £520. In order to assess whether you’ve got a valid claim, use our quick Compensation Check tool.
If eligible, you can claim compensation after a 3-hour delay. In EU law, the regulation that entitles passengers to compensation for a delay of more than 3 hours is called EU 261. After Brexit, the UK simply adopted the EU law, affording passengers the same protection under UK regulations.
Air passenger rights in India are, unfortunately, not as comprehensive as in the EU or Brazil. However, if you've experienced a flight delay travelling to or from country that is covered by air passenger rights, it is possible to claim compensation, even if you are not a citizen of that country. For example, anyone who is departing from the EU or arriving in the EU with an EU carrier may be eligible for compensation in the event of a delay. According to EC 261, you qualify if your flight was delayed by more than 3 hours, and it wasn't due to circumstances outside of the airline's control.
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