Flight Cancellation Refund - Your Rights
When you take an EU flight and it’s disrupted, you’re often entitled to money back from the airline. But if you’re confused about whether to ask for a flight refund under EC 261, or whether to demand compensation, we have good news for you. In some cases, you might be entitled to both.
Here’s the difference: If you can no longer take the flight, EU law says you have the right to a full flight refund. But, depending on the reason for the disruption, you might also be entitled to compensation, to make up for the inconvenience.
When are you entitled for a flight refund or flight compensation?
When can you get a refund on plane tickets?
You are entitled to a flight refund if:
- If your flight was delayed by more than 5 hours, and you no longer want to take the flight.
- OR If your flight was canceled less than 14 days before departure, and the alternative flight offered doesn't serve your original travel plans.
- OR If you have been denied boarding but you don't want to take the alternative flight offered.
According to EC 261, you have the right to a flight cancellation refund if your flight has been canceled. You will be offered an alternative flight, and you can request a different alternative if you prefer. But if none of the available flights suit your travel plans, you can request a full refund.
The same goes for a flight delay refund – if your flight was delayed by more than 5 hours, you have the right to decide not to take your flight, and ask for a refund. This is because a five-hour delay is just as inconvenient as a total cancellation.
When can you get a compensation?
Regardless of the refund, you are entitled to flight compensation if:
- Your flight was delayed for 3 hours or more.
- OR Your flight was canceled less than 14 days before it was due to depart.
- OR You were denied boarding due to overbooking.
- AND Your flight was set to depart from the EU or was on an EU airline arriving in the EU.
- AND You had a confirmed flight reservation.
- AND Your flight disruption occurred in the last 3 years.
- AND The reason for the flight disruption was within the airline's control.
Flight Cancellation Refund - Your Rights
- Can I get a flight cancellation refund?
- What are additional compensation for canceled flights?
- How much am I entitled to?
- How much is the compensation for canceled flights?
- Can I get a refund if either my inbound or outbound flight was cancelled?
- How long does it take to get a refund following a flight cancellation?
- Can I get a refund if my flight abroad has been canceled?
Can I get a flight cancellation refund?
A flight cancellation refund is just one of the options available to you in the event that your flight was canceled less than 14 days before your departure. According to EC 261, all canceled flights are entitled to either a:
- Full or partial refund of your ticket, with a return flight to your original departure point if needed.
- Earliest possible alternative transport to your final destination.
- A new ticket to your final destination at a later date of your choosing.
If you choose to get your flight refunded, the airline must send reimbursement within 7 days. It must be paid in cash, by means of electronic bank transfer, bank orders, or bank checks.
Alternatively, airlines can also offer compensation by means of travel vouchers or other services, but only by signed agreement of the passenger. If you want to receive your refund in cash, always check what documents you are signing before accepting any vouchers!
If you have not yet departed, you will be refunded the full cost of your ticket. However, if you have already departed, it gets a bit more complex.
Generally, you can get a partial refund for the unused portion of your ticket.
However, there are cases where you’ve already departed, but due to a flight cancellation, the alternative flight offered to you no longer serves your original travel plan.
This might happen if you have a connecting flight. You catch the first leg of the flight, but when you land you learn the second leg is canceled. Now imagine the airline can’t offer you an alternative that gets you to your original destination within a reasonable timeframe.
If that is the case, you are within your rights to demand a full refund of the flight ticket. So you get refunded for the used portion of your ticket, as well as the part of the ticket you didn’t use.
If needed, the airline must also provide you with a return flight to the first point of departure at the earliest possible opportunity.
What are additional compensation for canceled flights?
Passengers can receive both a refund of an airline ticket and compensation for the cancellation, provided that their flight qualifies for compensation.
To qualify, the airline must have let you know about the flight cancellation less than 14 days before it was due to depart. There are some other factors to take into account – whether they are able to offer you a very similar replacement for example. You can read up on all the eligibility requirements on our flight cancellation compensation page.
How much is the compensation for canceled flights?
|Distance||Less than 2 hours||2 - 3 hours||3 - 4 hours||More than 4 hours||Never arrived|
|All flights 1,500 km or less||€125||€250||€250||€250||€250|
|Internal EU flights over 1,500 km||€200||€200||€400||€400||€400|
|Non-internal EU flights between 1,500 km - 3,500 km||€200||€200||€400||€400||€400|
|Non-internal EU flights over 3,500 km||€300||€300||€300||€600||€600|
Which situations are not entitled to compensation?
Not all flights qualify for compensation. If you were informed about the cancellation or delay at least 14 days or more before your departure, your flight does not qualify for compensation.
According to EC 261, if the disruption is caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’, the airlines are not obligated to pay. Extraordinary circumstances are events that are beyond the airline’s control. This includes:
|Strikes initiated by airport employees or air traffic control|
Remember: even if the airline is not responsible for the disruption, you still have the right to a flight refund and to receive care.
If only one part of your journey was cancelled — either the inbound or the outbound flight, most airlines should allow you to get a refund on your whole journey if the flights are all part of the same booking or ticket. Policies may vary, however, so it is always best to contact your airline first. The flight that was not canceled will still remain active.
Getting a refund on your flight ticket can vary greatly depending on whether you paid via credit card or through some other method. It’s best to ask your travel agent or credit card company how long the process takes. If you are an AirHelp Plus member, you can also apply for flight refund assistance.
Yes. If your flight was cancelled, the airline can either refund you, or offer you an alternative flight. If your flight was cancelled less than 14 days before departure, and if your airline is at fault, you may also get compensation on top of your refund.
Flight Delay Refunds - Your Rights
- Can I get a refund for a delayed flight?
- When am I entitled to additional compensation for delayed flights?
- How much compensation for delayed flights can I get?
- Which situations am I not entitled to flight delay compensation?
Can I get a refund for a delayed flight?
An extensively delayed flight inconveniences a customer just as much as a canceled flight. You have the right to get a refund if your flight was delayed by more than 5 hours.
After you have been waiting that long, you can choose to abandon your flight rather than continue to wait. At that point you are entitled to a full refund if you have yet to travel, or a partial refund if you have already flown part of the route.
If you can show that because of the delay, the flight no longer works for the purpose that you booked it for – for example you will be too late to attend a business meeting – you can ask for a full refund, including parts of the ticket you have flown. You can also ask for a ticket back to your original departure point if needed.
As with a canceled flight, your refund must be paid in cash within 7 days by means of electronic bank transfer, bank orders, or bank checks. The airline may also offer you compensation the form of vouchers or services, but only with your signed agreement. Always read through the fine print carefully before signing anything!
When am I entitled to additional compensation for delayed flights?
As with cancellations, passengers can receive both a refund and compensation for a flight delay, provided that their flight qualifies.
The threshold for compensation for delayed flights is 3 hours, so lower than the 5 hour-delay threshold for flight refunds. Consequently, unless there are some extraordinary circumstances involved, refunded flights are also entitled to compensation. However you can also check the criteria for eligibility on our flight delay compensation page.
How much compensation for delayed flights can I get?
|Length of delay||Under 3 hours||3 - 4 hours||Over 4 hours||Never arrived|
|All flights 1,500 km or less||€-||€250||€250||€250|
|Internal EU flights over 1,500 km||€-||€400||€400||€400|
|Non-internal EU flights between 1,500 km - 3,500 km||€-||€400||€400||€400|
|Non-internal EU flights over 3,500 km||€-||€300||€600||€600|
Which situations am I not entitled to flight delay compensation?
You are not entitled to compensation if the reason for the delay is an extraordinary circumstance. These are situations that are beyond the airline’s control, such as:
|Strikes initiated by airport employees or air traffic control|
However, regardless of whether the delay falls under the airline’s responsibility, you still have the right to care, which includes meals, drinks, and where applicable, accommodation and transport. You can read more about the right to care here.
Flight Changes and Refunds
There are times when you need to make a change to your flight, or perhaps you can’t travel at all and need a refund. Airlines will usually charge a fee if you try to change your flight, but there are some exceptions and some ways around the fees.
Free changes and refunds within 24 hours of booking
For flights that are within the United States, you can change your flight or receive a refund if you cancel your flight within 24 hours of booking, but only if your flight is at least 7 days away.
However, be sure to check with your airline carrier, as some airlines have more generous cancellation and rebooking policies. Frequent flyers who have enough flyer miles or points also often have lower fees for cancellations and changes.
Air passengers have also the option of purchasing flexible flight tickets, also known as re-bookable flights.
These tickets often allow at least one free date change to your booking, which is ideal for business travelers or travelers who would like some additional flexibility when they fly. Some refundable flights give you credit on a future purchase instead, so be sure to check with your airline about the options available to you.
Commonly asked questions
- How can I protect my future flights against delays and cancellations?
- What do I do if the airline or travel agency offers me a flight ticket refund but I haven’t received it?
- Can you get your tickets refunded if you purchased them through a travel agency?
- Can I get a refund if I have travel insurance?
- Who can help me if the airline doesn’t pay my compensation?
You can protect any future flights by purchasing travel insurance. If you are worried about compensation, lost luggage, and refunds for unexpected expenses, you can also become an AirHelp Plus member. AirHelp Plus provides support on a range of flight issues, with access to a dedicated live chat that can give you real-time advice before, during, and after a flight disruption.
What do I do if the airline or travel agency offers me a flight ticket refund but I haven’t received it?
You can contact your airline or travel agency and ask when you can expect to receive your refund. If you are an AirHelp Plus member, we also offer refund assistance and can contact the airline on your behalf.
Yes, flight tickets can be refunded by your travel agency if your flight was canceled.
Yes, you can get refunded after an airline cancels your flight if you have travel insurance. Check with your travel insurance provider to find out their exact policies.
If an airline refuses to pay your compensation, the next step is to take them to court. Thankfully, if you claim with AirHelp, we handle all the legal procedures for you. We operate on a no win, no fee policy, which means that you only pay if we manage to successfully get you your compensation.
AirHelp is the world’s most successful flight compensation company, with lawyers in more than 30 countries. We pursue each claim using state-of-the-art technology, allowing us to process each claim efficiently.
We take the stress out of the claim process and handle all the heavy lifting for you. Plus we operate on a no win, no fee basis, which means that submitting a claim with us is always risk-free.