All airlines have to take maintenance seriously, but the best of them manage to ensure that planes are properly serviced without disrupting passenger schedules. Unfortunately, all too often flights are delayed due to maintenance over-runs, causing hardship for travelers in the process. But the good news is that in most cases, these delays qualify for generous compensation.
This compensation is provided under a relatively obscure European Union regulation known as 261/2004. Although very few North American travelers seem to be aware of its existence, this regulation can be their best friend when they experience a flight delayed due to maintenance. Simply, 261/2004 states that airlines are liable to pay compensation for cancellations, the denial of boarding, and flight delays. These problems must involve flights from of airports in Europe (which includes overseas territories like French Guiana or New Caledonia, as well as associated countries like Norway and Switzerland), or into an EU airport with a European carrier.
There's a maximum of $700 in compensation payments, aside from reimbursement of tickets and the provision of new ones. However, here's the important thing to know: compensation is only available if flight delays have been caused by the airline itself. Fortunately, maintenance almost always falls under the category of an avoidable delay. Bad weather or medical emergencies may be seen as exceptional circumstances, but if airlines fail to complete routine repairs and checks on time, they are deemed to be at fault. In that case, if delays exceed 3 hours, then passengers can make a compensation claim. This doesn't just apply to recent flights, by the way. Compensation can be back-dated 3 years, so previous vacations may still be covered. Either way, AirHelp will let you know if you can claim.
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AirHelp is the world's largest air passenger rights organization, here to help air travelers secure compensation for delayed, canceled, or overbooked flights.
We make claiming compensation easy and stress-free. Whether you are unsure of your rights, lack the time, or simply want an expert to handle your entire claim for you, AirHelp can help you get what you are rightfully owed.
We operate on a no win, no fee basis, so you can check your compensation risk-free.
How do you know when you should claim compensation for a delayed or canceled flight? Though the law can be complicated, we're here to break it down for you:
Delayed flights: you may be able to claim compensation if your flight arrived 3 hours or more late.
Canceled flights: you may be eligible for compensation if your flight was canceled less than 14 days before it was due to depart.
Overbookings: you are owed compensation any time you are denied boarding through no fault of your own — so long as you didn't voluntarily give up your seat.
We should note that if extraordinary circumstances were involved, arirlines are under no obligation to pay compensation. Examples of extraordinary circumstances include bad weather, travel restrictions, and air traffic control strikes. Though these situations cause delays and cancellations, the airline isn't at fault, so can't be expected to offer compensation.
Remember these are European flight regulations and so only apply to flights departing from an EU airport, or flights landing in the EU with a European airline. The table below makes it clear which flights are covered:
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Table shows values in € as specified in EC 261
In some circumstances the compensation amount may differ from the standard amounts shown above. The easiest way to find out what you’re owed is to use our Compensation Calculator.
If you experience a flight delay or cancellation, here's what you should do:
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