Missing a connecting flight is a nightmare setback on a long journey. But if you were traveling to or from Europe you might be protected by regulation EC 261. This says if you miss a connecting flight due to flight delay, cancellation, or being denied boarding you could be entitled to up to €600 ($700) compensation
A connecting flight is the term used for a flight which is not direct. Though these flights are bought as one booking, they involve flying into or ‘connecting’ via other airports on the way.
If something disrupts one of your flights, it may cause you to miss your connection. This sounds like a nightmare but don’t worry – your airline should arrange a new flight for you. Plus if you are flying in or out of Europe you may be entitled to additional compensation.
That’s because of an EU regulation, EC 261. Although there is no specific category of missed connection compensation, if the airline has caused you to miss your connecting flight due to flight delay, cancellation, or denied boarding, you can still make a claim for compensation.
You can claim EC 261 compensation for a missed flight connection if…
You missed the connection due to a flight delay, flight cancellation or overbooked flight.
In the case of flight delay: Your missed connection caused you to be over three hours late arriving at your final destination.
Your connecting flights were part of the same booking, not purchased individually.
The flight took off in the EU (from any airline) or landed in the EU (provided that the airline is headquartered in the EU).
The disruption which caused you to miss your connection was within the airline's control (e.g. airline staff strike or technical difficulties).
You did not miss your connection for a reason under your control (for example, you showed up too late at the departure gate, or did not have the correct documentation).
You encountered these problems on a flight operated no more than three years ago.
It doesn’t matter whether the airline has already provided you with a replacement flight,
In the case of missed connections, we realize some of the criteria might not be as straightforward as they seem. The simplest way to find out if you are owed compensation is to use our eligibility checker.
Or read on if you’d like to understand more about your right to compensation for missed connecting flights:
Missed connections are only eligible where both flights were part of the same reservation. That means that you booked a single journey from your departure to your destination, and the airline issued you with a ticket for connecting flights. Most often the connecting flights are with the same airline, but that isn’t always the case.
This is different to if you made two (or more) bookings for flights and plan to catch one following another. This situation would not be covered for missed flight connection – although you may be able to claim compensation for the original disruption.
Some travel agents will book two separate flights as part of the same journey. But they should make clear if they are not part of the same reservation and highlight the “self-transfer” at the connecting airport.
If you’re not sure if your journey is a single reservation, a simple way to tell is by looking at your booking reference number.
If this is the same for all flights they are considered part of the same reservation.
The EC 261 regulations apply to all passengers on flights within Europe – regardless of where the passenger is from. The definition covers all flights that depart from a European airport, and those that land in Europe on a European airline.
Missed connection compensation may even apply to flights outside of Europe, if part of your journey includes a European connection. This chart makes the coverage clear:
|Itinerary||EU air carrier||Non-EU air carrier|
|From inside the EU to inside the EU||✔️ Yes||✔️ Yes|
|From inside the EU to outside the EU||✔️ Yes||✔️ Yes|
|From outside the EU to inside the EU||✔️ Yes||No - unless your journey originated in EU*|
|From outside the EU to outside the EU||No - unless your journey originated in EU*||No - unless your journey originated in EU*|
* If flights were purchased under one booking, EC 261 considers them part of the same journey. Consequently, journeys departing the EU are covered by EC 261 regardless of where disruption occurs or where you miss your connection. This rule generally holds true, though some EU courts interpret the regulation differently.
EC 261 also applies in Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the so-called “outermost regions” (French Guiana and Martinique, Mayotte, Guadeloupe and La Réunion, Saint-Martin, Madeira and the Azores, and the Canary Islands).
Under EC 261, passengers are eligible to claim compensation when airline fault causes one of these three flight disruptions to occur:
A 3-hour (or more) delayed flight at your final destination
Therefore, if you miss a flight connection as a result of these flight incidents, you are eligible for missed connection compensation.
Note that in many cases airlines will reroute passengers on canceled or overbooked flights, negating the possibility of a missed connection.
One important point in relation to missed connection compensation is the 3-hour (or more) delay principle.
If you miss a connection due to a delayed flight, it is immaterial how long the delay is that caused the missed connection. The focus is on the length of delay of your final destination – which has to be three hours or more to be eligible for compensation.
If you missed your connection due to a cancellation or denied boarding, the total delay to your final destination can be any length.
Extraordinary circumstances are events deemed to be outside the control of the airline.
These include situations like lightning strikes, medical emergencies, air traffic control strikes, serious adverse weather conditions, acts of sabotage, political unrest, acts of terrorism… you get the idea.
If you miss a connection due to these kinds of extraordinary circumstances the airline isn’t obligated to pay compensation, since they are only held responsible for things that they control.
Airline strikes do not 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 as ‘extraordinary circumstances’.
Therefore, airlines must now compensate air passengers for flight delays and cancellations when an airline strike is to blame.
We know there are sometimes good reasons why you’ll miss a connection. Mishaps like a family emergency, a sudden sickness, or simply losing track of time can make you a no-show on your flight.
Regardless of the reason, if you are responsible for missing a connection you will not be entitled to compensation under EC 261. We do have some advice on how to handle a missed connecting flight in our FAQ section.
Even if you are on a business trip when you miss a connecting flight, it is still you, the passenger, who is entitled to compensation.
The general principle set out by EC 261 is that the passenger who has suffered the inconvenience is owed compensation, not the person who paid for the ticket.
How much compensation you are owed depends on the reason for your missed connection.
The most common reason for a missed connection is flight delay. If that’s what happened in your case, you can use the following table to understand how much you are owed (in Euros).
Compensation based on length of delay:
|Distance||Less than 3 hours||3 – 4 hours||More than 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 and 3,500 km||€ -||✔️ €400||✔️ €400||✔️ €400|
|Non-internal EU flights over 3,500 km||€ -||✔️ €300||✔️ €600||✔️ €600|
You may be entitled to different amounts of compensation if you missed a connection for reasons other than flight delay.
When you are claiming compensation for a missed connection, it is the total length of the journey that is important, not the leg of the journey that you missed.
That means any legs of the journey that came before the disruption might be included as well, if they were operated by the carrier responsible for the delay (and there were no intervening flights operated by a different carrier).
To put it another way, if an airline causes a missed connection, they are usually responsible for all of their own flights, even if they came before the disruption. They are also responsible for any later flights that are affected, even if they are with a different airline.
If you missed your connection due to the fault of the airline, the airline should rebook you on the next available flight to your destination.
If the missed connection means that the flight is no longer serving the purpose of your original travel plan, you may also want to make use of your rights of reimbursement.
This right kicks in if your flight is delayed for five hours or more, if your flight is canceled or if you are denied boarding for overbooking.
Under this part of the regulation, you may ask the airline to provide you with a return flight to the first point of departure AND a refund for the journey not made.
EC 261 is clear that refunds must also include parts of the journey that have been made if the flight is no longer serving its original purpose. This is particularly relevant to passengers on connecting flights, who have already flown part of their itinerary before the disruption occurred.
Right to care
If you’re waiting for the airline to get you back on track toward your destination, EC 261 says you’re entitled to a number essentials, depending on your flight details.
After several hours of delay, your airline must provide meals and refreshments as well as access to communications (two telephone calls, fax messages, or emails).
If overnight accommodation becomes necessary, they must provide you with a hotel room, and transportation to and from the airport.
Right to reimbursement or re-routing
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. That’s in addition to your compensation.
Upgrading and downgrading
EC 261 says your new flight should be of a similar standard to your missed connection.
However, if you are offered 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. But bear in mind that the amount you are entitled to under EC 261 may be deducted from whatever additional compensation you receive.
If you miss a connecting flight through no fault of your own, in most cases you have the right to be rebooked for free on the next available flight. In the EU you also have the right to ask for a refund and flight back to your point of departure if you no longer want to travel.
Here’s what to do:
1) Hold on to your boarding pass and other travel documents
You’ll need these later if you're able to make a compensation claim.
2) Speak to an airline representative
Today most airlines are aware straight away and will try to contact you with a replacement flight. If there’s no-one waiting when you disembark the plane find the customer services desk or speak to your airline on the phone.
3) Request an alternative flight to your destination
Your airline is obligated to get you on the next available flight to your destination.
Or, if that doesn’t work for you, ask them to refund your flight and put you on a return flight back to where you started from.
4) Ask if the airline will cover your meals and refreshments
If you’re at at the airport longer than planned, the airline can provide food and drinks to keep you comfortable. It’s not just good hospitality, in Europe it’s a requirement.
5) Ask the airline to provide you with a hotel room
If by 6pm the airline has still not managed to rebook you to another fight, hasn’t found a seat on a night flight or for the next day, the airline must arrange your hotel accommodation. They must also cover transportation to and from the airport, if necessary.
6) Check what will happen to your bags
Did your luggage also miss the connection? Ask if they can be returned to you if you’re going to be waiting a while for your replacement flight.
7) Let people in your destination know
If you’re visiting friends or relatives you don’t want them to worry when you don’t show up on time. If you’re staying in a hotel you should also contact them. They might put you down as a no-show and cancel your booking otherwise. The airline should offer you a way of communicating as part of your right to care.
8) Keep your receipts if your missed connection ends up costing you extra money
Whether it’s missing out on a pre-paid reservation, hotel, rental car, or other unexpected costs, passengers on international flights may be able to recover expenses caused by travel disruptions.
9) See if your missed connection is eligible for compensation
Use our eligibility checker to quickly and easily find out what you’re entitled to.
AirHelp makes the claim process simple. Fill in a few details about your flights, tell us what happened, and our team of expert claim agents will handle the rest.
We’ll check the details of your flight and build a case for compensation. And we’ll handle all the negotiations with the airline on your behalf.
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Avoid spending lots of time and effort navigating the complex legal system.
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If your flight is part of the same booking reference, then the airline should rebook you on the next possible flight. If the flight is significantly delayed, e.g. departing the next day, then they should either book you on a sooner flight with another airline, or provide you with meals and a hotel while you wait. It is also possible to get compensation if your flight wasn’t caused by circumstances outside of the airline’s control and if the cancellation means you arrive more than 3 hours late at your final destination. The amount you receive varies depending on how far you are flying, but even short trips receive a decent amount of compensation when eligible — that’s why it is worth checking if you’re eligible. However, if your connecting flight was part of a separate booking, then it’s up to you to rebook your flight. While some airlines may assist you in rebooking, they are not legally obligated to do so, and you may have to pay an additional rebooking fee.
You will need to give yourself enough time to get to your connecting flight, which in most cases, is at least 45 minutes.
Airlines should do this automatically, and should only offer journeys with realistic connection times. However if you're concerned, check the recommended layover time online and choose an option with a longer connection time when booking your flight.
If the airline is responsible for you missing your connection they are obligated to get you on the first available flight to your final destination. It is best to speak to airline staff and have them arrange this.
In rare cases, should the airline not be able to find you a substitute flight, you can book one yourself. If you choose this option, keep the receipt. The airline is obligated to offer you a full refund or the difference between the price of the original and the new ticket, if the latter is more expensive.
If you do decide to buy a new flight yourself make absolutely sure the airline is aware you missed your connection, and that you’re purchasing a new flight. You don’t want them to register you as a ‘no-show’ which may render the remainder of your journey null and void.
On the other hand, if you're responsible for missing your connection, the airline does not have to refund or book a new flight for you.
If you are responsible for missing your connecting flight, the airline is not obligated pay for a replacement, or to offer any compensation.
If you ask the airline to assist you with your re-booking, they may oblige. However, they are under no obligation to do so.
You should still let your airline know about the situation. There is a chance they may cancel the rest of your itinerary if they think you have abandoned your flight.
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