How to Claim Flight Delay Compensation
Air travel is often more complicated than we would like. Flights delays happen a lot more often than expected. Fortunately, EU Regulation 261/2004 (EC 261) protects you in case of a delayed flight. Among other rights, you could be entitled to flight delay compensation of up to €600.
There are three basic conditions for compensation eligibility:
- You reached your final destination with a delay of over 3 hours
- You flew with an EU airline or departed from inside the European Union
- Your flight delay was not due to extraordinary circumstances
At SkyRefund, we believe that passengers should be fully informed whenever they experience a flight disruption. In this article, we will go over all of the conditions for claiming flight delay compensation.
Our experienced legal team can help you claim up to €600 for your late flight. We will build your case and take care of all the hassle and hurdles travelers typically come up against when enforcing their right to compensation. Since we work according to a No Win- No Fee principle, we would only get paid if your claim is successful. Otherwise, you would not owe us anything.
Do you know what to do when your flight is delayed?
Unfortunately, only 1 out of 8 travellers is aware of their passenger rights in case of a prolonged EU flight delay, cancellation or denied boarding. Importantly, when passengers have a flight disruption, they may be entitled to compensation. Compensation eligibility has a few key components that we will illustrate in this guide.
How much can you claim for your delayed flight?
The amount of your compensation is determined by the distance your flight covers.
If your flight was shorter than 1,500 km, you could receive €250 in EU flight delay compensation from the airline.
Of course, you cannot always know what the distance between your departure and landing points is.
A simple way to find out your trip’s length would be to remember that in most cases flights shorter than 1,500 km would take less than two hours.
The amount rises to €400 for flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km. In most cases, the duration of these flights would be between two and four and a half hours.
You can claim compensation for a delayed flight of up to €600 if the distance exceeds 3,500 km. These long-haul services would normally take more than four and a half hours.
If your flight takes off and arrives in the EU, the compensation you can receive for your delayed flight cannot exceed €400. This is true even for trips longer than 3,500 km, where the compensation would otherwise be €600.
For example, the distance between Athens, Greece and Ponta Delgada in the Azores is over 4,000 km. However, both cities are in the EU. Therefore, the appropriate compensation amount would be €400.
In addition, if your flight is over 3,500 km but your delay lasts between 3 and 4 hours, your reimbursement could be reduced in half. In this case, the amount of your refund would be €300.
Flight Destination & Distance
All flights up to 1500 km
All EU flights over 1500 km
All non-EU flights between 1500 and 3500 km
All non-EU flights over 3500 km
The easiest way to determine the amount of your delay compensation is by using our compensation calculator. All you would need to do is enter your flight number and date. Our system will immediately inform you if you are eligible for compensation and the amount you can claim.
What determines your right to compensation?
To be eligible for compensation, the duration of your delay has to be over three hours.
Your delay’s length is determined by calculating the difference between your actual and your expected time of arrival.
For example, imagine your flight was scheduled to arrive at 12:45 pm but instead arrived at 4 pm. Your delay duration is 3:15h and you would be entitled to claim for your flight delay.
Arrival Time, not Departure
There is one more point of confusion, unfortunately: your delay duration is determined by the time of your arrival, not departure.
Let’s break this down.
Let’s say that the departure of your flight was late by more than three hours. However, the crew made up for some of that delay in-flight. As a result, you arrive at your final destination 2:45h behind schedule.
Because you arrived less than 3 hours late, you would not be eligible for a flight delay claim.
But imagine a slightly different scenario. You departed with a delay of over 3 hours. The delay was not made up for and you arrived 3:05 hours behind schedule.
According to EU law, you can claim for your late flight and receive compensation.
Were there any Extraordinary Circumstances
Airlines are not required to compensate passengers if a flight delay was caused by “extraordinary circumstances”.
It follows that claiming extraordinary circumstances (also known as force majeure events) can absolve an airline from its obligation to pay compensation to passengers affected by a late flight. It also makes it a lot more difficult for passengers to negotiate their reimbursement on their own.
In general, exceptional circumstances are said to be present if avoiding the delay was not within the airline’s capabilities and responsibilities.
The most common instances of extraordinary circumstances include:
- Bad weather (snowstorms, windstorms, low visibility)
- Strikes of the airport personnel and union strikes
- Bird strikes
- Air traffic control restrictions (including runway closures)
- Political and civil unrest
Unfortunately, it is not always easy to tell the difference between inhospitable and truly extraordinary circumstances.
Changes in weather conditions, for example, can be very subtle. Even weak crosswinds can prevent a flight from landing on time. Meanwhile, much stronger headwinds may not affect its flight capabilities much. Furthermore, some aircraft may be able to fly in certain weather conditions while others may not.
Avoidance of technical problems, however, is usually not considered beyond the airline’s capacities. Aircraft maintenance is the airline's obligation. Therefore, the carrier would not have fulfilled its responsibilities if a mechanical problem prevents a flight from departing on time.
So, if your flight was delayed due to technical issues, you could claim airline delay compensation.
Moreover, after a 2018 ruling of the European Court of Justice, not all strikes are seen as force majeure events. For example, strikes, caused by the restructuring of the airline (wildcat strikes) are not seen as exceptional anymore. Indeed, it falls within the carrier management’s obligations to avoid changes which would cause employee strikes that result in cancellations and other flight disruptions.
Wildcat strikes are not extraordinary events and passengers could claim for any disruptions caused by them.
However, airlines are not in the position to prevent any union or airport staff strikes.
Compensation Eligibility Checklist
Was your flight delayed by more than 3 hours?
Was it possible for the airline to avoid the delay?
Did you fly with a European airline or depart from European airport*?
Please note: EU Regulation 261/04, which establishes the requirements for flight delay compensation applies to all EU countries as well as to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, Switzerland and Serbia.
Right to Care: Get Free Food and Drinks While You Wait
It is the airlines’ obligation to make the period of your wait as comfortable as possible. This is known as a passenger’s “Right to Care”. In its simplest form, the airline is required to offer you food and drinks for the duration of your wait if you experience a flight delay or cancellation.
Typically, airlines would do this by offering their passengers food vouchers. These would be expected to cover all necessary and urgent expenses.
Don’t worry if the voucher cannot cover all of your expenses. If you exceed its amount, the airline will have to cover your additional costs. Make sure you hold on to your receipts so you can prove your purchases later.
Receipts are the only acceptable proof of purchase. This is why it is so important to hold on to them. Your receipts will allow you to ask for a refund later. Unfortunately, bank statements are not accepted.
Because the right to care and the right to compensation are separate, this refund will be paid in addition to any delay reimbursement that you may be entitled to.
But remember— according to EC 261, any meals and drinks you buy must be “in a reasonable relation” to your waiting time. Your right to care only applies to reasonable purchases and amounts.
For example, it is expected that you would need a meal if you experience a delay of 2 or 3 hours. But the right to care is not a license for binge eating.
You are also entitled to accommodation when your delayed or cancelled flight forces you to spend the evening at the point of departure. If the hotel of your choice is at a distance from the airport, your carrier is also required to cover your transportation costs.
Sometimes your starting point will be your hometown and you will be able to spend the night at home. In these cases, the airline should still cover your transport expenses.
Nevertheless, we would recommend leaving the airport's premises only if your flight is cancelled, not delayed. Passengers with cancelled flights are usually given a replacement flight with a fixed departure time. A delayed flight, on the other hand, could start boarding at any time.
Moreover, if due to a flight delay brought by extraordinary circumstances you have to spend the night, you could claim reimbursement for any accommodation costs. You may have to remain at the airport for some time if there are prohibitive conditions.
Fortunately, you have the right to care even in exceptional cases such as bad weather conditions. So, passengers who have suffered a flight delay longer than two hours have the right to food and refreshments from the airline.
SkyRefund will help you claim compensation for a delayed flight
With SkyRefund it’s quick and simple to submit a compensation claim and to enforce your rights.
You just need to submit your flight details. Our compensation algorithm will immediately inform you if you can claim and how much.
Just sign our authorization form and SkyRefund’s experts will begin working to enforce your EU air passenger rights.
We will take all of the necessary legal steps to protect your rights and ensure that you receive what you are owed.
Compensation for Missed Connections
With global air traffic constantly on the rise and passengers flying farther than ever, the number of connecting flights has increased spectacularly in recent years.
Unfortunately, in some cases, a delay in your inbound flight may cause you to miss your next connection.
If this happened to you and you arrived at your final destination more than 3 hours late, you could be entitled to compensation under EC 261.
Imagine, for instance, that you missed your connection because your previous flight arrived an hour late. As a result, you got to your final destination four hours late. In this case, you could submit a compensation claim as this scenario follows the 3-hour rule mentioned above.
Conversely, imagine you are given a fairly early replacement flight and you safely arrive just two hours late. In this case, despite the disruption, your rights would not entitle you to compensation.
In addition, eligibility requires that your tickets were issued under the same booking number. This is a fancier way of saying that they were issued together and are on the same booking.
If your flights are on separate bookings, strictly speaking, they count as different trips. Therefore, the airline will interpret your intermediary destination as final. Once it has taken you there, it would have fulfilled its obligations and responsibilities.
This is why there would not be legal grounds to demand delay compensation.
Unfortunately, low-cost airlines like easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air do not offer multi-flight trips under the same booking reference. This means that if you have more than one flight with them, they would not be seen as on the same booking and passengers affected by a missed connection, would not have a valid claim.
But there is good news if you are flying with other, traditional carriers.
With single flights, your compensation amount is determined by the flight distance of that only flight. When connecting flights, the size of your reimbursement will be set depending on the distance of your entire journey.
For example, imagine you booked a trip from Athens to Cardiff with a connection in Berlin. If the Athens-Berlin flight is delayed and you miss your next flight, you can claim compensation for the entire Athens-Cardiff journey. The refund, in this case, would be 400 euro.
In any case, if you miss your connection, the airline is required to provide you with an alternate flight. The only conditions that apply are the above-mentioned:
- You were not responsible for the missed flight.
- Your tickets were on the same booking.
Limitation Period: How far back can I claim for delayed flights?
Depending on the airline’s origin, you may be able to claim flight delay compensation for flights as old as 10 years. Regulation 261 does not provide an EU-wide limitation period. This is why the time limit in which you can claim varies between countries as follows:
1 year- Poland, Belgium
2 years- Croatia, Iceland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland
2 years 4 months - Italy
3 years – Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Sweden
5 years- Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Scotland, Spain
6 years- Cyprus, Ireland, UK (5 years in Scotland)
10 years- Luxemburg
No Limit- Malta
Claiming Compensation FAQ
If your flight fulfills the criteria we have listed above, you have the right to claim reimbursement from the airline.
Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions we receive.
Q: I just learned that my flight is delayed. What should I do?
A: We would recommend that you stay at the gate and pay attention to the information screens for any news about your flight. Since the flight is already late, boarding may begin at any time.
If your flight is set to depart from a different gate, approach the new gate as soon as possible. If you fail to board the plane, you would lose your right to compensation.
Q: What documents should I keep?
A: Hang on to your boarding pass and booking confirmation letter. Your boarding pass contains all of the information required to file a compensation claim, including your booking reference. Don’t throw it away!
Also, keep the receipts for all of the expenses you incur at the airport. The airline is required to reimburse you for any additional expenses for the period of your delay. Receipts, however, are the only way of proving you paid for your purchases. It is essential that you keep them.
Q: I was on a business trip paid by my employer. Do I receive the compensation or the company?
A: The airline is required to pay compensation to the passenger who boarded the flight-- you.
Q: I was on a codeshared flight. Which carrier should I approach with my claim?
A: When flying on codeshared flights, passengers should submit their claims to the operating air carrier. The easiest way to find out which your operating carrier is is by taking a look at your ticket. You should find the text reading “Operated by *Airline Name*”.
Q: We flew as a group. Do we share the compensation amount?
A: No. Even if you and your companions’ tickets are on the same booking, each passenger will be entitled to a separate compensation amount.
Q: What if the delay forces me to stay overnight?
A: Ask for accommodation. If the delay forces you to depart the following day, you can ask for a room for the night. The airline should also pay for your transportation to and from the hotel. These expenses are on top of any delay compensation that you are entitled to.
Q: The airline offered me a refund of my ticket. Should I accept?
A: No. Refuse the refund.
Sometimes airlines offer passengers a full refund of their tickets. But if they agree to the offer, passengers would give up their right to compensation.
However, the refund amount could be much smaller than the flight compensation they would otherwise be entitled to. This would often be true for low-cost airlines like Ryanair, Transavia, easyJet and Eurowings.
Moreover, if the passenger accepts this offer, they would lose their right to an alternate flight. They would not be entitled to food and drinks from the airline either.
Nevertheless, you can still accept a voucher for food and drinks, if one is offered, without forgoing your rights.
Q: I was seated in a lower class than the one I purchased. Can I get a refund for my downgrade?
A: Yes. EU Regulation 261/2004 is clear that the affected passenger can claim a refund for part of the price of their ticket. As with compensations, the distance of the flight (which affects the time you spend in a lower class) determines the refund amount.
If your flight was shorter than 1,500 km, you can claim back 30% of the ticket price. You can get back 50% of your ticket value if the flight was between 1,500 km and 3,500 km. As with flight delays, this is the most you can get if your flight departed and landed within the EU. Finally, if your flight exceeded 3,500 km, you are eligible for 75% of the cost of your ticket.
Q: What should I do when I arrive?
A: We recommend noting down the actual time of arrival. It is always displayed on the information screens inside the terminal.
Q: Can I claim delay compensation from any airline?
A: To receive compensation for your delay or cancellation, the operating airline needs to be registered in the EU, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, Switzerland, and Serbia.
In addition, the regulation governing compensation payments apply to all flights which depart from the EU, including any flights operated by non-EU airlines.
Q: When is the best time to submit my delay compensation claim?
A: It is best to submit your claim as soon as possible. This would allow our team to build the strongest claim on your behalf.
SkyRefund will help you receive your delayed flight compensation! Quick and easy!
Airlines often cite bad weather, technical issues or strikes as the reason for a flight delay. Standing up for yourself and enforcing your rights on your own can be a very frustrating and time-consuming process. Unfortunately, few passengers successfully claim compensation and it always involves a lot of hard work.
SkyRefund’s mission is to protect air passengers' rights. To ensure that passengers receive their rightful delayed flight compensation, we will take care of all of the administrative hassle as well as all the necessary legal steps.
- conduct an in-depth investigation into the circumstances surrounding the flight delay
- maintain sustained communication with the airline and double-check any information coming in from them
- contact the airport and the local civil aviation authorities.
We are even ready to take your case to court if the airline denies your right to delay compensation.
Cancelled flight? Learn more about claiming compensation for flight cancellations.