Claim EU & USA Compensation for Delayed Flights

Air travel, though often a remarkable experience, can occasionally encounter turbulence in the form of unexpected flight delays. Fortunately, for those who have endured the frustration of a late flight, there exists a silver lining in the form of potential airline delay compensation. Under the European legislation known as EC 261, passengers may be entitled to receive up to $650 (€600) flight delay compensation.

Let's delve deeper into your air passenger rights and explore the process of claiming the compensation you rightfully deserve for your plane delay. We're here to guide you through the steps to ensure you receive the flight delay compensation you're entitled to.

Delayed Flight Claim - When Are You Entitled to Compensation for a Delayed Flight?

Within the framework of EC 261, there exists a potential avenue for you to pursue a claim for flight delay compensation totaling $650 (€600) in cash. This plane compensation is within reach if certain conditions are met, ensuring that you don't bear the brunt of a late flight without recourse. To be able to claim flight delay compensation from airlines, consider the following scenarios:

  • You arrived at your destination more than 3 hours later than planned.

  • Your flight took off in the EU (many flights into the EU also qualify)

  • 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.

Understanding your rights and meeting these criteria is vital in ensuring you receive the compensation for delayed flights you rightfully deserve.

What Are You Owed in Flight Delay Compensation?

How Much Compensation Should You Get for Flight Delay?

When it comes to flights falling under the purview of EU law EC 261, a delay exceeding 3 hours automatically triggers your eligibility to claim compensation due to the inconvenience caused by the late flight.

The precise amount of your entitled flight delay compensation hinges on several factors, primarily the duration of your delay and the distance of your flight. The following chart provides a breakdown of these crucial details, so you have a better understanding of your possible late flight compensation:

Less than 3 hours3 – 4 hoursMore than 4 hoursNever arrivedDistance
❌ € –✔️ €250✔️ €250✔️ €250All flights 1,500 km or less
❌ € –✔️ €400✔️ €400✔️ €400Internal EU flights over 1,500 km
❌ € –✔️ €400✔️ €400✔️ €400Non-internal EU flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km
❌ € –✔️ €300✔️ €600✔️ €600Non-internal EU flights over 3,500 km

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Flight Compensation for Business Travelers and Public Officials

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.

Right to Care: What You Can Get Besides EU Flight Delay Compensation

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.

Beyond Airline Compensation: Other Rights That Come With EC 261

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.

Further compensation

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.

Flight Compensation in Cash or Flight Vouchers

In the face of flight delays, airlines often extend an offer of compensation in the form of flight vouchers. When you're weary and exasperated due to delays, accepting a voucher for a future flight can be tempting and convenient.

However, it's crucial to exercise caution and assess whether accepting such a voucher might inadvertently waive your right to claim the flight delay compensation you are legally entitled to. EU regulations explicitly stipulate that airline compensation should be disbursed in cash, via electronic transfer, or checks, unless the passenger willingly opts for travel vouchers instead.

Ultimately, the decision rests with you when it comes to accepting or rejecting these vouchers. Nonetheless, it's essential to recognize that it's in your best interest to explore what compensation for cancelled flights you might be eligible for if you decline the airline's offer and insist on receiving cash instead.

Surprisingly, a significant number of air travelers remain unaware of their entitlements regarding international flight compensation. Our survey of European air travelers revealed that a staggering 85% are unfamiliar with their rights, and on a global scale, a staggering 13 million passengers are currently not receiving the compensation that is rightfully owed to them. It's high time to ensure you're well-informed about your rights and take steps to claim the compensation you deserve for flight delays.

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Which Flights are Covered by Flight Delay Compensation?

Are All Delayed Flights Covered by EC 261?

Almost all routes within Europe are covered for airline delay compensation.

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.

In fact, if your flight originates from any airport within the EU, it falls under the protective umbrella of EC 261. Moreover, if your flight takes off from a location outside the EU but is operated by an EU-based airline, it still qualifies for coverage and the associated flight delay compensation. This comprehensive reach ensures that a significant number of air travelers are eligible for compensation when faced with flight delays, irrespective of their departure point.

How EU Flight Delay Compensation is Calculated

The calculation of flight delay compensation hinges on the moment you arrive at your ultimate destination, a vital aspect to consider. This is because, even if your flight experienced a late departure, airlines may still have opportunities to reduce the delay during the flight itself.

So, what precisely constitutes a flight's "arrival time"?

In a landmark decision in September 2014, the European Court of Justice (case C-452/13) provided a clear definition of "arrival time." According to this ruling, "arrival time" is officially recognized as the point at which the aircraft reaches its final destination and at least one of its doors is opened.

This definition is rooted in the principle that, at this moment, passengers are granted permission to disembark from the aircraft.

It's worth noting that this definition of arrival time can occasionally result in a variance of 15 minutes or more compared to the time at which the plane physically landed. Therefore, when pursuing a claim for your flight delay compensation, precision in determining the arrival time is paramount to ensure you receive the airline compensation you are entitled to.

How long can a flight be delayed without compensation? 3 full hours.

Airline Compensation is Not Required for Extraordinary Circumstances

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 March 2021, the European Court of Justice made a ruling stating that 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.

Can You Get Airline Compensation if You Miss a Connecting Flight?

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 3 hours later than your original flight, you could claim up to $650.

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 your flight was delayed, canceled or overbooked within the last 3 years, you could be eligible for up to $650 in compensation.

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How to File a Claim to Get Flight Delay Compensation

Airline Compensation: What To Do When Your Flight is Delayed

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.

How to Claim Flight Delay Compensation with AirHelp

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.

Have AirHelp Claim Your Compensation

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Documents You Need to Claim Flight Delay 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.

Tools to Help You Claim for Flight Delay Compensation

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.

Know Your Rights: Regulations on Airline Compensation

Flight Delay Compensation US

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:

ItineraryEU Air CarrierNon-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.

Global Regulations on Delayed Flights: The Montreal Convention

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.

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How Can AirHelp Help?

How AirHelp Can Enforce Your Rights

  • 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.

AirHelp’s Impact on Flight Delay Compensation Claims

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.

If your flight was delayed, canceled or overbooked within the last 3 years, you could be eligible for up to $650 in compensation.

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Common questions about flight delay compensation

Can you get compensation for a delayed flight?

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.

Can you claim for flight delays caused by bad weather?

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.

Can you claim compensation for a 1-hour flight delay?

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.

Can you get flight delay compensation outside of Europe?

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.

How much compensation are you owed for a flight delay?

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.

How to claim for a delayed flight?

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.

Is flight delay compensation worth it?

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.

Can you claim money back if you had extra costs due to flight delay?

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.

What is an extraordinary circumstance that causes flight delays?

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.

I’m stranded on the tarmac – what should I do?

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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