Your guide to flight cancellation compensation
Going to the airport, bags packed, ready for your journey… just to see the red blinking sign "cancelled" next to your flight on the departures board. Has this ever happened to you? If yes, you are familiar with the disappointment and inconvenience of changing your post-arrival plans accordingly.
Unfortunately, these situations are unpredictable and often come as a (bad) surprise to passengers. The only good thing that might come out of a flight cancellation or delay is the compensation you're entitled to as an air passenger, according to EU Regulation 261/2004 and UK law.
The European Union ensures air passenger rights and could guarantee you a financial compensation up to €600 euros (£520) if your flight is delayed over 3 hours or cancelled less than 14 days before the departure date. UK Parliament adopted said regulation into its domestic law after Brexit and British citizens can also take advantage of these legal protections.
SkyRefund is dedicated to helping travellers with claiming their rightful reimbursement and assisting them with all legal procedures involved in the process. You will not be bothered with calling the airline or dealing with forms and other documents, we will take care of everything for you. You can use our free compensation calculator to check your eligibility.
In this article we summarised everything you need to know about claiming compensation if your flight gets cancelled.
When are you entitled to flight cancellation compensation
In order to be eligible to receive compensation for flight cancellation, three important conditions have to be met:
- The airline notifies you about the cancellation less than 14 days prior to the scheduled departure
does not provide an alternate flight within a reasonable timeframe from the original flight.
- Your flight is scheduled to depart from an EU country
You are travelling to Europe on a flight, operated by an EU airline.
- The airline is responsible for the disruption.
As mentioned above, in order for air passengers to be eligible for financial compensation in the event of a cancelled flight, the airline must bear responsibility for the cancellation. There are, however, certain situations which are considered “extraordinary circumstances” and are outside of the airline’s control. Travellers cannot claim reimbursement if their flight did not take off due to one of the following reasons:
- Bad weather (extreme conditions like heavy rain or a severe snowstorm)
- Bird strikes
- Air traffic control restrictions
- Medical emergencies
- Civil or political unrest
- Security threats (like sabotage or terrorist acts)
Airlines often try to “excuse” flight disruptions with reasons like “technical issues”, “operational circumstances”, or airline staff strikes. Nevertheless, the European Court of Justice has a firm position on this: airlines are responsible for keeping their aircraft in a good state and managing their staff in a way that would not affect their customers.
So if your flight gets significantly delayed or cancelled because of technical difficulties or a ‘wildcat strike’, you have the absolute right to claim your compensation under EU261.
The amount of compensation for a cancelled flight mostly depends on the distance of the journey but also on the arrival timeframe of the replacement flight (if such is provided). This means that you have to note when your alternate flight arrives at your final destination. If the total length of the delay is not significant, your compensation could be reduced considerably.
The reimbursement ranges from €250 to €600 and we compiled the conditions under which you get a certain amount in the table below.
3 - 4 hours
/ Never arrived
|All flights up to 1500 km
|ECAA flights of more than 1,500 km and
/all others between 1,500 and 3,500 km
|All other flights of more than 3,500 km
Keep in mind that EU261 applies to the countries from the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA) which includes:
- the 27 Member States of the European Union;
- the United Kingdom;
- Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion Island, Mayotte, Saint-Martin, the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands;
- and Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland.
Apart from informing you about the cancellation on time, the airline must offer you a replacement flight at the earliest convenience OR a full refund of the booking. What’s more, they should either cover your food and accommodation expenses or book you a return flight to the original point of departure if the cancellation happened after the first leg of your journey.
All this is valid even if the flight was cancelled due to extraordinary circumstances, thanks to EU261 and the UK law regulations (and in fact also the U.S. Department of Transportation) requiring airlines to protect their customers in cases of flight disruptions.
This also means that if you had connecting flights and you missed one of them because of the cancellation, airlines are required to reimburse you for the full cost of your reservation. Keep in mind that in order for this to be true, both your flights should be booked under the same reservation number. Otherwise your flight compensation will be calculated only for the distance of the flight that was cancelled (and not the whole journey).
You should also know that if you get a class upgrade for the replacement flight, you do not owe any additional money to the airline. If you are downgraded on the other hand, you could be entitled to a refund (partial) of the original ticket price.
What should you do if your flight is cancelled
- Keep your boarding pass, reservation confirmation, and proof as to exactly when the airline informed you about the cancellation. This could be an email, a text message, or an announcement at the airport, and could be crucial for your compensation claim.
- Contact the airline's customer service for more information and inquire about an alternate flight.
- If you get a replacement flight, note the departure and arrival times.
- If you need to wait at the airport and/or stay the night, keep all receipts for food and drinks, and hotel accommodation so that you can get reimbursed.
Lastly, do not forget that under EU Regulation 261 you are entitled to compensation not only in the unfortunate event of a flight cancellation, but also if:
- your flight departs late and you arrive at your final destination with a long delay (over 3 hours);
- you are denied boarding due to overbooking.
The experienced legal team of SkyRefund will gladly help you along the way if you would like to claim compensation. We work on a “No win, no fee” principle and will support and assist you in the whole process of fighting for your rights as an air passenger. Enter your flight details here to check your eligibility and leave the rest to us!