Flight cancelations are incredibly irritating, and sometimes costly. And they seem to occur at random, hitting all airlines and all routes with no sense of logic. Much of the time, airline passengers accept cancelations as a fact of life, but that shouldn't be the case. In many instances, there will be scope to claim compensation. Let's see how it's done.
The key thing to know about here is a European regulation called 261/2004. This covers flights from the USA to all European Union nations (including popular destinations like France, Portugal, Greece, and Germany) as well as a few other major destinations, such as Norway and Switzerland. All flights leaving the EU are covered, regardless of carrier, and flights arriving in the EU with a European airline. Under 261/2004, US flight cancellations can result in compensation if passengers are diverted onto alternative flights, if flights have to return to their original airport for any reason, or if flights are diverted to alternative destinations and passengers weren't asked for their agreement.
If passengers are informed less than 14 days prior to their schedule being changed, they are entitled to compensation, as well as reimbursement of their ticket costs, and the cost of providing substitute tickets to their destination. Amounts of compensation for US flight cancellations will vary depending on how far the flight was due to travel but can reach $700 in some cases. However, some limitations apply. All cancelations must be the fault of the airline, so events like volcanic eruptions or tropical storms could be inadmissible. Still, this leaves the majority of canceled or re-routed flights. If that happens to you, AirHelp will make sure you get suitable compensation.
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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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