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 $700 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 $700 (€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 and technical difficulties).
It doesn’t matter whether the airline has already provided you with food, refreshment or travel vouchers.
For flights covered by EU law EC 261, any delay longer than three 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 two 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 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.
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 travelers 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).
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 flights operated by other airlines were able to depart on time.
Do Airline strikes fall under extraordinary circumstances?
In April 2018, the European Court of Justice made a ruling stating that internal ‘wildcat strikes’ by flight staff do not constitute extraordinary circumstances.
Therefore, airlines must now compensate air passengers for flight delays and cancellations, when an airline strike is to blame.
With travelers 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 three 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 five 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 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.
We understand how frustrating it is to suffer a flight delay or cancellation and our app delivers real-time flight compensation eligibility decisions.
Boarding pass scanner
There is no need to manually enter or remember your flight details or booking numbers—just scan the barcode on your boarding pass. After this, our compensation calculator takes care of everything.
Free trip delay compensation checker
Using the online boarding pass scanner, you are able to check flight delay compensation eligibility instantly.
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, canceled or overbooked 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 canceled 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.
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.
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 13 million passengers process their airline compensation claims.
Yes, if you were flying to or from the UK, the EU, or Brazil you may be entitled to compensation for a delayed flight.
To answer the question, “can you claim for delayed flights?” in Europe, check if:
You arrived late by 3 or more hours at your destination (4 hours for Brazil).
The delay was not caused by a circumstance outside of the airline’s control.
Usually, no. Delays caused by bad weather are exempt from compensation.
When asking – can you claim compensation for delayed flights due to weather? The biggest thing to be aware of is that most flight delays caused by bad weather are seen as extraordinary circumstances.
Meaning, when something outside the airline’s control (in this case, the weather) causes a delay — by law, the airline is not held accountable for it — especially if the decision to delay the flight is to protect the safety of the passengers and crew.
But — there are times you could be compensated for a weather-related delay. For example, if bad weather conditions are expected (e.g. a cold country should anticipate snow in winter) airlines should make plans that allow them to take off in good time. If your airline didn’t but others did, you could be owed compensation.
There are plenty of questions that come up about bad weather, like “Will rain delay a flight?”, “Do flights get delayed for storms?”, and “Do flights get delayed for snow?“. That’s why it’s best to look at each case individually.
Unfortunately, no, you can’t claim compensation for a 1-hour flight delay. A flight delay only becomes legally eligible for compensation after 3 hours in the EU and UK, and in Brazil, after 4. While a 1-hour flight delay can still be stressful and frustrating, air passenger rights laws don’t view it as something that will greatly alter your plans.
Yes — but it does depend where you were flying. The EU and UK flight delay compensation laws are some of the most comprehensive — and they don't only cover internal flights. If your flight departed Europe, or you flew into Europe on a UK or EU airline, you're covered by EC 261 or it's UK equivalent.
Brazil is another country with strong air passenger rights, where you can claim flight delay compensation.
The amount of compensation you get will depend on the laws that apply to your flight as well as factors such as the distance of your flight, or the length of your delay. In the EU you can claim up to €600, in Brazil there's no set amounts, but it could be as much as R$5,000.
You need to be proactive to claim compensation for a delayed flight. You can contact the airline directly to argue your case, or you can use a specialist company like AirHelp to negotiate on your behalf. Either way, if you’re wondering how do you claim for a delayed flight, you can start with our Compensation Check Tool, which will help you establish if you are owed compensation, as well as telling you how much.
Yes. AirHelp makes getting compensation for flight delay a simple process, and we work on a no win, no fee basis which means there is no risk for you if you want to try making a claim.
Under some passenger rights laws it is possible to claim back the money you lost because of a flight delay. However airlines will look at whether your costs are necessary — so they will usually only refund reasonable accommodation and food costs. You may also be able to claim for missed reservations. Always hold onto your receipts.
We can assist AirHelp Plus members with these claims.
Extraordinary circumstances is a legal term for any situation or event that’s outside of the airline’s control.
Common examples that cause flight delays include bad weather conditions, such as storms, snow, or heavy fog, or disruptions caused by air traffic control or airport staff going on strike. Less common occurrences — including natural disasters like earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, terrorist incidents, or even other unruly passengers — also count as extraordinary circumstances.
However, each situation must be considered on a case-by-case basis. For example, while a heavy snowstorm is often considered an extraordinary circumstance, at many airports snow is common in winter, and airlines should be prepared for it. If your plane was delayed by snow, while others made the necessary preparations to take off on time, we would argue that bad weather doesn’t count as an extraordinary circumstance in this case.
It’s important to take note of the time when the plane doors are closed. Then, if the wait feels like it’s getting a bit longer than normal, you can measure how much time you’ve been sitting on the tarmac.
If the wait is too long, there’s something you can do.
In the USA, laws say that tarmac delays over 2 hours require special attention. Food, water, operational lavatories must be made available to passengers, as well as medical care, if required. If the delay goes on over 3 hours passengers should be offered the opportunity to deplane.
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