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 are entitled to file a delayed flight claim for $700 (€600) cash flight compensation if…
You arrive at your destination more than three hours later than planned.
The flight took off in the EU (from any airline) or landed in the EU (provided that the airline is headquartered in the EU).
You have 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 three years ago.
The airline is 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? Three 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 13 million passengers to get up to €600 in compensation.
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.
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.
European tarmac delays are eligible for compensation just the same way a flight delay is eligible for compensation in Europe. However, if you’re not someone who likes sitting on a busy plane for longer than necessary, it’s a bad situation.
While supplying air conditioning, access to lavatories and water is mandatory, the law doesn’t require giving passengers the option to deplane until the tarmac delay reaches five hours.
Yes, if your flight meets some basic criteria, you may be able to claim compensation for a delayed flight in the EU or in Brazil, as their air passenger rights make airlines liable for lengthy delays where the airline is considered at fault.
However, air passenger rights in the US are not as extensive as those in the EU or Brazil. Airlines flying domestic routes within the US are not legally obligated to give you compensation. But — can you ask for compensation if your flight is delayed? Of course you can — but it is entirely up to the airline to decide if they will give you anything.
Yes, it is possible, provided your flight meets some basic criteria. You are eligible for compensation under air passenger laws in both the EU and Brazil, provided you’ve had a delay of more than 3 hours, and that the reason for the delay was not something beyond the airline’s control. You also have the right to meals and refreshments, as well as accommodation and transportation if needed.
But, while this is true for international flights, do you get money if your flight is delayed within the US? Unfortunately, US laws do not require airlines to pay compensation for delays and it is entirely up to the airline to make the decision. However, for lengthy delays, you can ask for a refund on your ticket.
Yes, but eligibility for compensation is determined on a case-by-case basis. Generally speaking, most flight delays caused by bad weather are seen as extraordinary circumstances, meaning that the delay was caused by a situation outside of the airline’s control. Airlines will often have to make the decision to delay flights due to severe weather to protect the safety of passengers and crew. In these cases, they do not owe their passengers any compensation, though they will still need to provide them with meals, access to communication, and accommodation if necessary.
Can you claim compensation for delayed flights due to weather if it isn’t considered an extraordinary circumstance?
Yes, it’s possible, especially if bad weather conditions are expected. For example, in cold countries where there is a lot of snowfall, the airlines should adjust accordingly, and make plans to ensure they take off on time. If they didn’t, you may be owed compensation — this is especially true if other flights managed to take off, but yours didn’t.
Yes, some countries have air passenger laws comparable to EC 261. In Brazil, for example, there is ANAC 400, which similarly requires airlines to compensate passengers following a lengthy delay.
Also, if you happen to experience a delay on a connecting flight within Europe, even if your destination is outside of Europe, you may be eligible for compensation under EC 261.
Generally, a flight can be delayed by as much as 3 hours before compensation is due. It’s important to note that the delay is considered to be how late you arrive at your final destination, not how long you waited at your departure airport. The amount of time that needs to have passed before your flight qualifies for compensation varies depending on the individual air passenger laws of the countries you’re flying from.
So how long can flight be delayed before you can claim compensation? In Europe, you qualify for compensation if your flight was delayed by more than 3 hours, provided that it was not caused by circumstances outside of the airlines’ control.
In Brazil, you could be eligible for compensation after 4 hours, or if the airline fails to provide you with appropriate care.
3 hours. Many flights from the UK fall under EU regulation EC 261. This law states that all flights delayed by more than 3 hours that were not caused by circumstances outside of the airline’s control may be considered eligible for compensation.
The amount of time it takes for you to receive your compensation after you have submitted a flight delay claim varies greatly and depends on various factors. Airlines typically have to process hundreds of claims at a time and it may take them weeks, or even months, to respond. And if legal disputes arise, the process is even longer, even taking a few years to resolve if the case has to go to court.
That is why services like AirHelp exist — we handle the entire process for you from start to finish, so you don’t have to keep following up.
You can get up to $700 in the EU, and as much as $1,300 in Brazil in flight compensation. In the EU, the amount of compensation you receive for an eligible flight delay claim depends on the length of your delay and the distance of your flight. In Brazil, the amount changes based on individual circumstances — some factors include the length of the journey, the care the airline provided, and the reason behind the delay.
If you have a delayed flight, you are entitled to care from the airline — this includes food, drinks, access to communication, and accommodation if necessary. If the delay exceeded 3 hours and was not caused by a circumstance outside of the airline’s control, then you may also be eligible for compensation.
For lengthier delays, you may also ask for a refund.
The important thing to remember is that it is always up to the passenger to be proactive and to put forward a claim following a lengthy delay. There are several options for how to claim compensation for a delayed flight:
Use a flight claims company such as AirHelp, who will handle all the paperwork and negotiations with the airline on your behalf. AirHelp has a no win, no fee policy, meaning that you only pay a fee after you’ve successfully received your compensation.
Contact a lawyer, who will negotiate on your behalf. This option, however, often has high costs upfront.
Contact the airline directly and handle negotiations by yourself.
The amount of compensation you’re owed depends on various factors — it includes not just the distance of your flight, but also the number of hours you’re delayed, whether the airline is responsible for the disruption, and where you are flying from, among other things. Since there are many factors at play, the easiest way to check how much you’re owed is to use our easy Compensation Check.
Generally speaking, no. If your flight has been delayed, the airline will reschedule your flight as they see fit, or put you on a different flight altogether. The only way for you to choose your own flight date is to purchase a new ticket altogether.
If your trip was delayed and your flight cancelled, you do not have to pay additional costs even if your replacement flight takes place during the high season. In some cases, you may even be eligible for compensation if the cancellation meets the necessary conditions.
AirHelp has been featured in:
AirHelp is a part of the Association of Passenger Rights Advocates (APRA) whose mission is to promote and protect passengers’ rights.
Copyright © 2021 AirHelp